United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
JOHN M. MYLAND, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
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 his claim for disability insurance
alleged a disability onset date of April 17, 2012.
PageID.216. Plaintiff identified his disabling conditions as:
chronic pain; mood disorder; depression; post traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD); anxiety; chronic right elbow pain;
chronic back pain; chronic headaches; and prinzmetal angina.
PageID.220. He completed a GED and had past employment as a
delivery manager for a furniture leasing business, truck
driver, and a security specialist at a hospital.
PageID.84-85, 221. The administrative law judge (ALJ)
reviewed plaintiff's claim de novo and entered a
written decision denying benefits on July 18, 2014.
PageID.48-62. 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. § 404.1505; 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).
claim failed at the fifth step of the evaluation. At the
first step, the ALJ found that plaintiff engaged in
substantial gainful activity during a portion of the relevant
time period (from his alleged onset date in April 2012
through November 2012). PageID.50. However, the ALJ also
found that despite having engaged in substantial gainful
employment for several months after the alleged onset date,
there has been a continuous 12-month period during which
plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful activity, and
that he met the insured status of the Social Security Act
(“Act”) through December 31, 2017. Id.
At the second step, the ALJ found that plaintiff had severe
impairments of degenerative disc disease lumbar spine;
history of remote in time T11 compression fracture (thoracic
spine); dysthymic disorder; anxiety disorder; PTSD; pain
disorder; and narcotic dependence. PageID.51. At the third
step, the ALJ found that 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. Id.
decided at the fourth step that plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity (RFC) to perform “to perform medium
work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) except occasional
climbing and occasional balancing; can perform simple,
repetitive work with occasional public contact and no
fast-paced work.” PageID.53. The ALJ also found that
plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work.
fifth step, the ALJ determined that plaintiff could perform a
significant number of unskilled, medium exertional jobs in
the national economy. PageID.61. Specifically, the ALJ found
that plaintiff could perform the following unskilled work in
the region (defined as the State of Michigan): laborer
(medium) (17, 000 jobs); custodial (medium) (38, 000 jobs);
and custodial (light) (13, 000 jobs). Id.
Accordingly, the ALJ determined that plaintiff has not been
under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act,
from April 17, 2012 (the alleged onset date) through July 18,
2014 (the decision date). Id.
raised three issues on appeal:
Did the Commissioner violate the regulationsrequiring controlling weight for treating ...