United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division
PATRICE L. BICKHAM, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER ON CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT (DOCS. 14, 19)
Patricia T. Morris United States Magistrate Judge.
Introduction and Procedural History
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), E.D. Mich. LR 72.1(b)(3),
and by Notice of Reference, this case was referred to the
undersigned Magistrate Judge for the purpose of reviewing a
final decision by the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying Plaintiff Patrice L.
Bickham's (“Bickham”) claim for a period of
disability, Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”)
under Title II of the Social Security Act 42 U.S.C. §
401 et seq., and Supplemental Security Income
Benefits (“SSI”) under Title XVI, 42 U.S.C.
§ 1381 et seq. (Doc. 3). The matter is
currently before the Court on cross-motions for summary
judgment. (Docs. 14, 19).
October 9, 2013, Bickham filed concurrent applications for
DIB and SSI, alleging a disability onset date of May 7, 2012.
(Tr. 182-91). The Commissioner denied her claims. (Tr.
89-110). Bickham then requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), which occurred
on June 25, 2015, before ALJ Stephen Marchioro. (Tr. 29-88).
At the hearing, Bickham-represented by her
attorney-testified, alongside Vocational Expert
(“VE”) Paul Delmar. (Id.). The ALJ's
written decision, issued September 18, 2015, found Bickham
not disabled. (Tr. 12-23). On August 9, 2016, the Appeals
Council denied review, (Tr. 1-6), and Bickham filed for
judicial review of that final decision on September 13, 2016.
Standard of Review
district court has jurisdiction to review the
Commissioner's final administrative decision pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The district court's review is
restricted solely to determining whether the
“Commissioner has failed to apply the correct legal
standard or has made findings of fact unsupported by
substantial evidence in the record.” Sullivan v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 595 F App'x. 502, 506 (6th
Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted). 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.” Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
Court must examine the administrative record as a whole, and
may consider any evidence in the record, regardless of
whether it has been cited by the ALJ. See Walker v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 884 F.2d 241,
245 (6th Cir. 1989). The Court will not “try the case
de novo, nor resolve conflicts in the evidence, nor decide
questions of credibility.” Cutlip v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir.
1994). If the Commissioner's decision is supported by
substantial evidence, “it must be affirmed even if the
reviewing court would decide the matter differently and even
if substantial evidence also supports the opposite
conclusion.” Id. at 286 (internal citations
Framework for Disability Determinations
the Act, “DIB and SSI are available only for those who
have a ‘disability.'” Colvin v.
Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007).
“Disability” means the inability
to engage in any 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.
42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A) (DIB); 20
C.F.R. § 416.905(a) (SSI). The Commissioner's
regulations provide that disability is to be determined
through the application of a five-step sequential analysis:
Step One: If the claimant is currently engaged in substantial
gainful activity, benefits are denied without further
Step Two: If the claimant does not have a severe impairment
or combination of impairments that “significantly
limits . . . physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities, ” benefits are denied without further
Step Three: If the claimant is not performing substantial
gainful activity, has a severe impairment that is expected to
last for at least twelve months, and the severe impairment
meets or equals one of the impairments listed in the
regulations, the claimant is conclusively presumed to be
disabled regardless of age, education or work experience.
Step Four: If the claimant is able to perform his or her past
relevant work, benefits are denied without further analysis.
Step Five: Even if the claimant is unable to perform his or
her past relevant work, if other work exists in the national
economy that plaintiff can perform, in view of his or her
age, education, and work experience, benefits are denied.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. See also Heston
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 245 F.3d 528, 534 (6th Cir.
2001). “Through step four, the claimant bears the
burden of proving the existence and severity of limitations
caused by [his or] her impairments and the fact that she is
precluded from performing [his or] her past relevant
work.” Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336
F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003). The burden transfers to the
Commissioner if the analysis reaches the fifth step without a
finding that the claimant is not disabled. Combs v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 459 F.3d 640, 643 (6th Cir.
2006). At the fifth step, the Commissioner is required to
show that “other jobs in significant numbers exist in
the national economy that [the claimant] could perform given
[his or] her RFC [residual functional capacity] and
considering relevant vocational factors.”
Rogers, 486 F.3d at 241 (citing 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(a)(4)(v), (g)).
the authority of the Social Security Act, the SSA has
promulgated regulations that provide for the payment of
disabled child's insurance benefits if the claimant is at
least eighteen years old and has a disability that began
before age twenty-two (20 C.F.R. 404.350(a) (5) (2013). A
claimant must establish a medically determinable physical or
mental impairment (expected to last at least twelve months or
result in death) that rendered her unable to engage in
substantial gainful activity. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
The regulations provide a five-step sequential evaluation for
evaluating disability claims. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520.
the five-step sequential analysis, the ALJ found Bickham not
disabled under the Act. (Tr. 12-23). At Step One, the ALJ
found that Bickham last met the insured status requirements
of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2017, and had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity in the interval
between her alleged onset date of May 7, 2012 through her
date last insured (“DLI”) of December 31, 2017.
(Tr. 14). At Step Two, the ALJ concluded that the following
impairments qualified as severe: epilepsy, status-post repair
of a ruptured posterior tibial tendon of the left ankle, and
osteoarthritis. (Tr. 15). The ALJ also decided, however, that
none of these met or medically equaled a listed impairment at
Step Three. (Tr. 15-16). Thereafter, the ALJ found that
Bickham had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work with the following
[S]he must be able to alternate between sitting and standing
while remaining at her workstation. She can stand for thirty
minutes, sit for 120 minutes, and walk for ten minutes at a
time. The claimant can occasionally push or pull with her
bilateral upper extremities. She can occasionally operate
foot controls with her left lower extremity. She can
occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel,
and crouch. She can never crawl. The claimant can never climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She can occasionally reach
overhead bilaterally. She must avoid all excessive vibration
and unprotected heights. She must avoid all use of moving
mechanical parts and can never operate a commercial vehicle.
16). At Step Four, the ALJ noted Bickham's past relevant
work as a fast-food worker and manager, but noted that the VE
“did not testify as to whether the claimant could
perform her past relevant work, ” and that such
information was “not material because all potentially
applicable Medical-Vocational Guidelines would direct a
finding of ‘not disabled' given the
individual's age, education, past relevant work, and
residual functional capacity.” (Tr. 21-22). Proceeding
to Step Five, the ALJ determined that “there were jobs
that existed in significant numbers in the national economy
that the claimant could have performed.” (Tr. 22-23).
Court has reviewed Bickham's medical record. In lieu of
summarizing her medical history here, the Court will make
references and provide citations to the record as necessary
in its discussion of the parties' arguments.
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