United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
L. MALONEY United States District Judge.
a social security action brought under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) seeking judicial review of a final decision by the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(Commissioner) denying Plaintiff's claim for disability
insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income
(SSI) under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act.
Section 405(g) limits the Court to a review of the
administrative record, and provides that if the
Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial
evidence, it shall be conclusive. The Commissioner has found
that Plaintiff is not disabled within the meaning of the Act.
scope of judicial review in a social security case is limited
to determining whether the Commissioner applied the proper
legal standards in making her decision and whether there
exists in the record substantial evidence supporting that
decision. See Brainard v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 889 F.2d 679, 681 (6th Cir. 1989). The Court may
not conduct a de novo review of the case, resolve
evidentiary conflicts, or decide questions of credibility.
See Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir.
1984). It is the Commissioner who is charged with finding the
facts relevant to an application for disability benefits, and
her findings are conclusive provided they are supported by
substantial evidence. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than a
preponderance. See Cohen v. Sec'y of Health &
Human Servs., 964 F.2d 524, 528 (6th Cir. 1992)
(citations omitted). It is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. See Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389,
401 (1971); Bogle v. Sullivan, 998 F.2d 342, 347
(6th Cir. 1993). In determining the substantiality of the
evidence, the Court must consider the evidence on the record
as a whole and take into account whatever evidence in the
record fairly detracts from its weight. See Richardson v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 735 F.2d 962,
963 (6th Cir. 1984). The substantial evidence standard
presupposes the existence of a zone within which the decision
maker can properly rule either way, without judicial
interference. See Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545
(6th Cir. 1986) (citation omitted). This standard affords to
the administrative decision maker considerable latitude, and
indicates that a decision supported by substantial evidence
will not be reversed simply because the evidence would have
supported a contrary decision. See Bogle, 998 F.2d
at 347; Mullen, 800 F.2d at 545.
was thirty-one years of age on the date of the ALJ's
decision. (PageID.37, 118, 131.) He previously obtained a GED
and has been employed as a material handler and as an
assembler / production. (PageID.64, 68.) Plaintiff applied
for benefits on December 19, 2012, alleging that he had been
disabled since January 30, 2009, due to depression and severe
social anxiety. (PageID.118, 131, 238-250.) This application
was denied upon initial review on June 11, 2013, after which
time Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ.
(PageID.149-174.) On September 18, 2014, Plaintiff appeared
with his counsel before ALJ James Prothro for an
administrative hearing at which time Plaintiff, Dr. Jeffrey
Andert (a psychological expert), and a vocational expert (VE)
all testified. (PageID.58-105.) On December 12, 2014, the ALJ
issued his written decision, concluding that Plaintiff was
not disabled. (PageID.37-57.) On March 22, 2016, the Appeals
Council declined to review the ALJ's decision, making it
the Commissioner's final decision in the matter.
(PageID.27-32.) Plaintiff subsequently initiated this action
under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
social security regulations articulate a five-step sequential
process for evaluating disability. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a-f), 416.920(a-f). If the
Commissioner can make a dispositive finding at any point in
the review, no further finding is required. See 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a-f), 416.920(a). The
regulations also provide that if a claimant suffers from a
nonexertional impairment as well as an exertional impairment,
both are considered in determining the claimant's
residual functional capacity (RFC). See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1545, 416.945.
has the burden of proving the existence and severity of
limitations caused by his impairments and that he is
precluded from performing past relevant work through step
four. Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d
469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003). At step five, it is the
Commissioner's burden “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.
Prothro determined Plaintiff's claim failed at step five.
At step one the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since January 30, 2009,
Plaintiff's alleged disability onset date. (PageID.42.)
At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the
severe impairments of: (1) anxiety disorder NOS; (2)
dysthymic disorder (mild depression); and (3) an adjustment
disorder. (PageID.43.) At step three, 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 found in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P,
App. 1. (PageID.43-47.) At step four, the ALJ determined
Plaintiff retained the RFC based on all the impairments to
a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the
following nonexertional limitations: limited to simple work,
meaning one to two step tasks; occasional public contact and
he may not perform fast paced work.
(PageID.47.) Continuing with the fourth step, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff was unable to perform any of his
past relevant work. (PageID.49.) At the fifth step, the ALJ
questioned the VE to determine whether a significant number
of jobs exist in the economy that Plaintiff could perform
given his limitations. See Richardson, 735 F.2d at
964. The VE testified that Plaintiff could perform work in
the following representative jobs: garment sorter (1, 150
regional and 50, 000 national positions), folder of garments
(1, 200 regional and 51, 000 national positions), and sorter
of agricultural products (1, 100 regional and 50, 000
national positions). (PageID.99-104.) Based on this record,
the ALJ found that Plaintiff was capable of making a
successful adjustment to work that exists in significant
numbers in the national economy. (PageID.51.)
the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled from
January 30, 2009, through December 12, 2014, the date of
sole issue for review is the ALJ's treatment of Dr.
Andert's opinions from the administrative hearing and ...