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Weisenfeld v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division

July 25, 2017

ROBIN J. WEISENFELD, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen

         ORDER OVERRULING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS, ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION, DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, AND AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER

          THOMAS L. LUDINGTON United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Robin J. Weisenfeld filed a complaint seeking judicial review of the Social Security Commissioner's denial of disability benefits on May 12, 2016. ECF No. 1. Weisenfeld's original application for disability benefits was filed on April 3, 2013. The request was denied, and Weisenfeld requested an administrative hearing. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that Weisenfeld was not disabled. The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's denial of benefits the Commissioner's final decision. Weisenfeld sought judicial review, and the case was referred to Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen. ECF No. 3. After the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, Judge Whalen issued a report recommending that the Defendant's motion be granted, Plaintiff's motion denied, and the Commissioner's decision affirmed. ECF Nos. 11, 16, 19. Weisenfeld filed two objections to the report and recommendation. ECF No. 20. For the reasons stated below, those objections will be overruled and the report and recommendation will be adopted.

         With one exception (discussed below), neither party has objected to Judge Whalen summary of the background and administrative proceedings of the case. For that reason, the summary is adopted in full. A brief reiteration will be provided here. Weisenfeld was 51 when her request for disability benefits was denied by the Commissioner. She has a college education and previous work history as a nurse. Weisenfeld alleges disability due to arthritis and back pain.

         At the hearing, the ALJ found that Weisenfeld experienced several severe impairments: “calcium pyrophosphate deposition disease (pseudogout); arthritis of the knee status-post two surgeries, and obstructive sleep apnea.” Admin. Rec. at 33, ECF No. 9. Despite those impairments, the ALJ concluded that Weisenfeld possessed the Residual Functional Capacity for light work, with certain restrictions, and concluded that Weisenfeld could perform a significant number of jobs despite her limitations.

         II.

         When reviewing a case under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the Court must affirm the Commissioner's conclusions “absent a determination that the Commissioner has failed to apply the correct legal standards or has made findings of fact unsupported by substantial evidence in the record.” Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997) (citations omitted). Substantial evidence is “such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Id. (citation omitted).

         Under the Social Security Act (“The Act”), a claimant is entitled to disability benefits if he can demonstrate that he is in fact disabled. Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007). Disability is defined by the Act as an “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 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505, 416.05. A plaintiff carries the burden of establishing that he meets this definition. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(5)(A); see also Dragon v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 470 F. App'x 454, 459 (6th Cir. 2012).

         Corresponding federal regulations outline a five-step sequential process to determine whether an individual qualifies as disabled:

First, the claimant must demonstrate that he has not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the period of disability. Second, the claimant must show that he suffers from a severe medically determinable physical or mental impairment. Third, if the claimant shows that his impairment meets or medically equals one of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, he is deemed disabled. Fourth, the ALJ determines whether, based on the claimant's residual functional capacity, the claimant can perform his past relevant work, in which case the claimant is not disabled. Fifth, the ALJ determines whether, based on the claimant's residual functional capacity, as well as his age, education, and work experience, the claimant can make an adjustment to other work, in which case the claimant is not disabled.

Courter v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 479 F. App'x 713, 719 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 378 F.3d 541, 548 (6th Cir. 2004)). Through Step Four, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving the existence and severity of limitations caused by his impairments and the fact that she is precluded from performing her past relevant work. At Step Five, 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. See Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n. 5 (1987).

         A.

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72, a party may object to and seek review of a Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2). Objections must be stated with specificity. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 151 (1985) (citation omitted). If objections are made, “[t]he district judge must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). De novo review requires at least a review of the evidence before the Magistrate Judge; the Court may not act solely on the basis of a Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation. See Hill v. Duriron Co., 656 F.2d 1208, 1215 (6th Cir. 1981). After ...


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