United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
J. QUIST, 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) regarding 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.
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 forty-five years of age on the date of the ALJ's
decision. (PageID.53, 120, 131.) She completed high school
and was previously employed as a cashier, as a fast food
restaurant worker, and as a glass inspector. (PageID.79,
113-114.) Plaintiff applied for benefits on November 16,
2013, alleging disability beginning August 30, 2012, due to
bipolar disorder, depression, and extreme trauma.
(PageID.120, 131, 205-217.) Plaintiff's applications were
denied on April 21, 2014, and Plaintiff subsequently
requested a hearing before an ALJ. (PageID.147-159.) On June
23, 2015, Plaintiff appeared with her counsel before ALJ
Donna Grit for an administrative hearing at which time
Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) both testified.
(PageID.73-119.) On July 20, 2015, the ALJ issued an
unfavorable written decision that concluded Plaintiff was not
disabled. (PageID.53-72.) On August 9, 2016, the Appeals
Council declined to review the ALJ's decision, making it
the Commissioner's final decision in the matter.
(PageID.31-35.) Thereafter, Plaintiff 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), 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 her impairments and that she 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.
Grit determined that Plaintiff's claim failed at step
five. At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged
disability onset date. (PageID.58.) At step two, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff suffered from the severe impairments of
obesity, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, cluster B
personality traits, and hypothyroidism. (PageID.58-59.) At
step three, the ALJ found that prior to May 21, 2015,
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.59-61.) At step four, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff retained the RFC based on all the impairments:
to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b) except she cannot climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds; she cannot understand, remember, or perform more
than simple tasks or make more than simple decisions; and she
cannot maintain more than occasional interaction with
co-workers, supervisors, or the general public. She can adapt
to routine changes in the workplace.
Continuing with the fourth step, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff was unable to perform any of her past relevant
work. (PageID.66.) 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 her
limitations. See Richardson, 735 F.2d at 964. The VE
testified that Plaintiff could perform work in the following
representative jobs: machine tender (101, 000 national
positions), assembler (250, 000 national positions), and line
attendant (125, 000 national positions). (PageID.114-115.)
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.67.)
the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled from
November 26, 2013, the alleged disability onset date, through