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 disability insurance
alleged a disability onset date of September 24, 2012.
PageID.187. Plaintiff identified her disabling conditions as:
ulcerative colitis; fibromyalgia; degenerative arthritis in
lower back and both hips; bone spurs in both feet; nerve
damage in left shoulder; and “lots of pain in legs and
back.” PageID.191. She completed a GED and had past
employment as the night manager of a gas station, a cashier,
a school bus driver, and an environmentalist in a hospital
(housekeeper in the decontamination area). PageID.192, 252.
The administrative law judge (ALJ) reviewed plaintiff's
claim de novo and entered a written decision denying
benefits on July 31, 2015. PageID.58-68. 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 fourth step of the evaluation. At the
first step, the ALJ found that plaintiff has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of
September 24, 2012, and meets the insured status requirements
of the Act through June 30, 2017. PageID.60. At the second
step, the ALJ found that plaintiff had severe impairments of:
calcaneal bone spurs on bilateral feet; cervical and lumbar
degenerative disk disease; osteoarthritis; Crohn's
Disease; and obesity. PageID.60. 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. PageID.61.
decided at the fourth step that:
[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) where the
claimant can lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally, and 10
pounds frequently, can sit up to eight hours of an eight-hour
workday, and can stand and/or walk up to eight hours of an
eight-hour workday. The claimant does not require an
assistive device for ambulation. The claimant has no reaching
or manipulative limitations. The claimant has no limitations
of the bilateral lower extremities for the operation of foot
controls. The claimant has no postural limitations or
environmental limitations. The claimant could be exposed to a
noise level of a moderate level (SCO level 3) equal to an
The ALJ also found that plaintiff could perform her past
relevant work as a cashier, which is unskilled, light work
which does not require the performance of work-related
activities precluded by plaintiff's residual functional
capacity (RFC). PageID.66.
alternative, the ALJ proceeded to step five, where he
determined that plaintiff could perform a significant number
of unskilled, light exertional jobs in the national economy.
PageID.66-67. Specifically, the ALJ found that plaintiff
could perform the following unskilled, light work in national
economy such as marker-retail (200, 000 jobs), photo copy
machine operator (50, 000 jobs), and cafeteria attendant
(100, 000 jobs). PageID.67. The ALJ's findings are based
upon the vocational expert's responses to
interrogatories. PageID.253-254. Accordingly, the ALJ
determined that plaintiff has not been under a disability, as
defined in the Social Security Act, from September 24, 2012
(the alleged disability onset date) through July 31, 2015
(the date of the decision). PageID.68.