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Kravat v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

September 15, 2017

ELIZABETH ANN KRAVAT, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          AMENDED OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [11] AND GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [14]

          MONA K. MAJZOUB UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Elizabeth Ann Kravat seeks judicial review of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's determination that she is not entitled to social security benefits for her physical and mental impairments under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Docket no. 1.) Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 11) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 14). With consent of the Parties, this case has been referred to the undersigned for final judgment in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73. (Docket no. 10.) The Court has reviewed the pleadings, dispenses with a hearing pursuant to Eastern District of Michigan Local Rule 7.1(f)(2), and is now ready to rule.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff protectively filed an application for Supplemental Security Income on October 15, 2013, alleging that she has been disabled since February 28, 2012, due to “severe depression, severe anxiety, arthritis, chondromalacia, [and] obesity.” (TR 88, 172-76.) The Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's claim on March 18, 2011, and Plaintiff requested a de novo hearing. (TR 88-103, 104-06.) On April 27, 2015, Plaintiff appeared with a representative and testified at the hearing before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Regina Sobrino. (TR 53-86.) In a June 19, 2015 decision, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform a limited range of sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(a) and was not entitled to benefits because she was capable of performing a significant number of jobs in the national economy. (TR 36-47.) The Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's decision (TR 1-7), and Plaintiff commenced this action for judicial review. The parties then filed cross motions for summary judgment, which are currently before the Court.

         II. HEARING TESTIMONY AND MEDICAL EVIDENCE

         Defendant (docket no. 14 at 4-6) and the ALJ (TR 36-46) each set out a detailed, factual recitation with regard to Plaintiff's medical record and the hearing testimony. Plaintiff also discusses the facts relevant to her arguments. (Docket no. 11 at 5-10.) Having conducted an independent review of Plaintiff's medical record and the hearing transcript, the undersigned finds that there are no material inconsistences among these recitations of the record. Therefore, the undersigned will incorporate the factual recitations by reference. Additionally, the undersigned will include comments and citations to the record as necessary throughout this Opinion and Order.

         III. ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE'S DETERMINATION

         The ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of October 11, 2013, and that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: degenerative joint disease/chondromalacia; plantar fasciitis; carpal tunnel syndrome; asthma; headache disorder; obesity; affective disorder; and anxiety disorder. (TR 33.) The ALJ also determined that Plaintiff's abscesses (or cysts) were non-severe impairments. (Id.) Next, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal the severity of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (TR 34.) The ALJ then found that Plaintiff had the following residual functional capacity (RFC):

[C]laimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(a), with the following additional limitations: the opportunity to alternate position for up to 5 minutes approximately every 20 minutes; no climbing of ladders, ropes, scaffolds, or stairs; occasional stooping and balancing; no kneeling, crouching, or crawling; no overhead reaching, and no more than frequent reaching in other directions; frequent handling, fingering, and feeling. She should be able to wear hand braces while working. There should be no work around hazards such as unprotected elevations or near dangerous, moving machinery; no exposure to vibration; no use of foot or leg controls; and no concentrated exposure to respiratory irritants. She is limited to simple, routine, 1- and 2-step tasks not done at a production rate pace (e.g., no assembly line work); with minor changes in the work setting; no work that requires interaction with the public; occasional contact with co-workers; and routine supervision.

(TR 36.) Subsequently, in reliance on the VE's testimony, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was capable of performing a significant number of jobs in the national economy, including an administrative support worker, a hand packer, and a sorter. (TR 46.) Therefore, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled at any time from October 11, 2013, through the date of the decision. (TR 46-47.)

         IV. LAW AND ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of Review

         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's final decisions. Judicial review of the Commissioner's decisions is limited to determining whether his findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether he employed the proper legal standards. See Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Walters v. Comm'r, 127 F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance; it is “‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'” Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401 (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)); Walters, 127 F.3d at 528. It is not the function of this Court to try cases de novo, resolve conflicts in the evidence, or decide questions of credibility. See Brainard v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 889 F.2d 679, 681 (6th Cir. 1989); Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984).

         In determining the existence of substantial evidence, the court must examine the administrative record as a whole. See Kirk v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 667 F.2d 524, 536 (6th Cir. 1981), cert. denied, 461 U.S. 957 (1983). If the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, it must be affirmed, even if the reviewing court would decide the matter differently, Kinsella v. Schweiker, 708 F.2d 1058, 1059 (6th Cir. 1983), and even if substantial evidence also supports the opposite conclusion. See Her v. Comm'r, 203 F.3d 388, 389-90 (6th Cir. 1999); Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986) (en banc) (noting that ...


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