United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
S. CARMODY, United States Magistrate Judge
an action pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security
Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to review a final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff's
claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Titles II and XVI of
the Social Security Act. The parties have agreed to proceed
in this Court for all further proceedings, including an order
of final judgment. (ECF No. 12).
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. For the reasons articulated
herein, the Commissioner's decision is vacated and this
matter remanded for further factual findings pursuant to
sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Court's jurisdiction is confined to a review of the
Commissioner's decision and of the record made in the
administrative hearing process. See Willbanks v.
Sec'y of Health and Human Services, 847 F.2d 301,
303 (6th Cir. 1988). The 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 and Human Services, 889 F.2d 679,
681 (6th Cir. 1989).
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).
Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than
a preponderance. See Cohen v. Sec'y of Dep't of
Health and Human Services, 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 in the record
fairly detracts from its weight. See Richardson v.
Sec'y of Health and Human Services, 735 F.2d 962,
963 (6th Cir. 1984).
been widely recognized, 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 42 years of age on his alleged disability onset date.
(PageID.255). He successfully completed high school and
worked previously as a truck driver. (PageID.57-58).
Plaintiff applied for benefits on August 3, 2013, alleging
that he had been disabled since October 17, 2011, due to a
back injury. (PageID.255-78, 292). Plaintiff's
application was denied, after which time he requested a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
(PageID.101-252). On February 18, 2015, Plaintiff appeared
before ALJ James J. Kent with testimony being offered by
Plaintiff and a vocational expert. (PageID.73-99). In a
written decision dated May 7, 2015, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff was not disabled. (PageID.49-59). The Appeals
Council declined to review the ALJ's determination,
rendering it the Commissioner's final decision in the
matter. (PageID.31-35). Plaintiff subsequently initiated this
action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial
review of the ALJ's decision.
OF THE ALJ'S DECISION
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), 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 his residual functional capacity.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545, 416.945.
burden of establishing the right to benefits rests squarely
on Plaintiff's shoulders, and he can satisfy his burden
by demonstrating that her his are so severe that he is unable
to perform his previous work, and cannot, considering his
age, education, and work experience, perform any other
substantial gainful employment existing in significant
numbers in the national economy. See 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(2)(A); Cohen, 964 F.2d at 528. While
the burden of proof shifts to the Commissioner at step five
of the sequential evaluation process, Plaintiff bears the
burden of proof through step four of the procedure, the point
at which his residual functioning capacity (RFC) is
determined. See Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146
n.5 (1987); Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127
F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997) (ALJ determines RFC at step
four, at which point claimant bears the burden of proof).
determined that Plaintiff suffers from: (1) irritable bowel
syndrome (IBS)/Crohn's disease; (2) chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease (COPD); (3) fibromyalgia; (4) sleep
disorder; (5) migraines; (6) hypertension; (7) obesity; and
(8) degenerative disc disease of the spine, severe
impairments that whether considered alone or in combination
with other impairments, failed to satisfy the requirements of
any impairment identified in the Listing of Impairments
detailed in 20 C.F.R., Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
respect to Plaintiff's residual functional capacity, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff retained the ability to perform
light work subject to the following limitations: (1) during
an 8-hour workday, he can stand/walk for 4 hours and sit for
6 hours; (2) he “might” need a sit/stand option
at will provided that he is not off task more than 10 percent
of the work period; (3) he can occasionally climb ladders,
ropes, scaffolds, ramps, and stairs; (4) he can occasionally
balance, stoop, ...