United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
KENT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),
seeking judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(Commissioner) denying her claim for child's insurance
was previously found eligible for disability insurance
benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI).
PageID.40. In a hearing decision dated February 23, 2004,
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) William E. Decker found
plaintiff disabled as of October 15, 2001. PageID.40,
113-118. At that time, plaintiff was 25 years old. PageID.42.
The present case involves plaintiff's January 8, 2013
application for child's insurance benefits, based upon
both her mother's and her father's accounts.
PageID.40. In this application, plaintiff alleged a
disability beginning March 31, 1998, one month prior to
attainment of age 22. Id. In addressing this new
claim, ALJ Luke A. Brennan stated that:
The issue is whether the claimant is disabled under section
223(d) of the Social Security Act. Disability is defined as
the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity
by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental
impairment or combination of impairments that can be expected
to result in death or that has lasted or can be expected to
last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.
As required by section 202(d) of the Social Security Act, to
be entitled to child's insurance benefits, the claimant
must have a disability that began before attainment of age
Page ID.40. ALJ Brennan further explained that,
“[u]nder the authority of the Social Security Act, the
Social Security Administration has promulgated regulations
that provide for the payment of disabled child's
insurance benefits if the claimant is 18 years old or older
and has a disability that began before attaining age 22 (20
alleged a disability onset date of March 31, 1998 (about two
weeks before her 22nd birthday) with alleged disabling
conditions of major depression, substance abuse, borderline
personality disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD). PageID.233, 238. ALJ Brennan reviewed
plaintiff's claim de novo and entered a decision
denying benefits on April 16, 2014. PageID.40-51. While ALJ
Brennan found that plaintiff was disabled within the meaning
of the Social Security Act since age 25 (2001), she was not
disabled under the Act prior to attaining age 22 (1998). This
decision, which was later approved by the Appeals Council,
has become the final decision of the Commissioner and is now
before the Court for review.
court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
typically focused on determining whether the
Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial
evidence. 42 U.S.C.§405(g); McKnight v.
Sullivan, 927 F.2d 241 (6th Cir. 1990).
“Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla of
evidence but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Cutlip v. Secretary of
Health & Human Services, 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir.
1994). A determination of substantiality of the evidence must
be based upon the record taken as a whole. Young v.
Secretary of Health & Human Services, 925 F.2d 146
(6th Cir. 1990).
scope of this review is limited to an examination of the
record only. This Court does not review the evidence de
novo, make credibility determinations or weigh the
evidence. Brainard v. Secretary of Health & Human
Services, 889 F.2d 679, 681 (6th Cir. 1989). The fact
that the record also contains evidence which would have
supported a different conclusion does not undermine the
Commissioner's decision so long as there is substantial
support for that decision in the record. Willbanks v.
Secretary of Health & Human Services, 847 F.2d 301,
303 (6th Cir. 1988). Even if the reviewing court would
resolve the dispute differently, the Commissioner's
decision must stand if it is supported by substantial
evidence. Young, 925 F.2d at 147.
claimant must prove that he suffers from a disability in
order to be entitled to benefits. A disability is established
by showing that the claimant cannot engage in substantial
gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable
physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result
in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a
continuous period of not less than twelve months.
See 20 C.F.R. § 416.905; Abbott v.
Sullivan, 905 F.2d 918, 923 (6th Cir. 1990). In applying
the above standard, the Commissioner has developed a
The Social Security Act requires the Secretary to follow a
“five-step sequential process” for claims of
disability. First, plaintiff must demonstrate that she is not
currently engaged in “substantial gainful
activity” at the time she seeks disability benefits.
Second, plaintiff must show that she suffers from a
“severe impairment” in order to warrant a finding
of disability. A “severe impairment” is one which
“significantly limits . . . physical or mental ability
to do basic work activities.” Third, if plaintiff is
not performing substantial gainful activity, has a severe
impairment that is expected to last for at least twelve
months, and the impairment meets a listed impairment,
plaintiff is presumed to be disabled regardless of age,
education or work experience. Fourth, if the plaintiff's
impairment does not prevent her from doing her past relevant
work, plaintiff is not disabled. For the fifth and final
step, even if the plaintiff's impairment does prevent her
from doing her past relevant work, if other work exists in
the national economy that plaintiff can perform, plaintiff is
Heston v. Commissioner of Social Security, 245 F.3d
528, 534 (6th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted).
claimant bears the burden of proving the existence and
severity of limitations caused by her impairments and the
fact that she is precluded from performing her past relevant
work through step four. Jones v. Commissioner of Social
Security, 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003). However, at
step five of the inquiry, “the burden shifts to the
Commissioner to identify a significant number of jobs in the
economy that accommodate the claimant's residual
functional capacity (determined at step four) and vocational
profile.” Id. If it is determined that a
claimant is or is not disabled at any point in the evaluation
process, further review is not necessary. Mullis v.
Bowen, 861 F.2d 991, 993 (6th Cir. 1988).
federal court's standard of review for SSI cases mirrors
the standard applied in social security disability
cases.” D'Angelo v. Commissioner of Social
Security, 475 F.Supp.2d 716, 719 (W.D. Mich. 2007).
“The proper inquiry in an application for SSI benefits
is whether the plaintiff was disabled on or after her
application date.” Casey v. Secretary of Health and
Human Services, 987 F.2d 1230, 1233 (6th Cir. 1993).
claim failed at the fifth step of the evaluation. The ALJ
initially found that plaintiff had not attained the age of 22
as of the alleged disability onset date of March 31, 1998,
and that she has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since that date. Page ID.42. Second, the ALJ found that prior
to attaining age 22, plaintiff had severe impairments of
depression and dysthymic disorder. Page ID.42. At the third
step, the ALJ found that prior to attaining age 22, plaintiff
did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
met or equaled the requirements of the Listing of Impairments
in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1. Page ID.43.
decided at the fourth step that:
prior to attaining age 22, the claimant had the residual
functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all
exertional levels but with the following nonexertional
limitations: she was limited to simple routine tasks
involving no more than simple short instruction [sic] and
simple work-related decision [sic] with few workplace
The ALJ also found that in 1996, the only year in which
plaintiff had earnings consistent with substantial gainful
activity, she worked for five different employers with total
earnings of $6, 645.06. PageID.49. Because “none of
these jobs were performed for a significant amount of time,
” the ALJ found that plaintiff had no past relevant
fifth step, the ALJ determined that plaintiff could perform
unskilled work at all exertional levels in the national
economy. PageID.50. Representative occupations in the
regional economy (Michigan) for a person with plaintiff's
residual functional capacity (RFC) included: grocery stocker
(12, 000 jobs); dishwasher (7, 000 jobs); and hand packager
(9, 000 jobs). Id.
the ALJ determined that based on the application for
child's insurance benefits, plaintiff was not disabled as
defined in the Social Security Act prior to April 13, 1998,
the date she attained age 22. PageID.50-51.