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Hampton v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

September 25, 2017

MARY R. HAMPTON, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

         OPINION AND ORDER (1) SUSTAINING IN PART AND OVERRULING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS (ECF #19) TO THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (ECF #18), (2) GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF #10), (3) DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF #14), AND (4) REMANDING PLAINTIFF'S CLAIM FOR BENEFITS FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS

          MATTHEW F. LEITMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In this action, Plaintiff Mary Rosellamay Hampton (“Hampton”) alleges that the Commissioner of Social Security wrongly denied her application for Social Security disability benefits. After the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, the assigned Magistrate Judge issued a comprehensive Report and Recommendation in which he recommended that the Court (1) grant the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment and (2) deny Hampton's Motion for Summary Judgment (the “R&R”). (See ECF #18.) Hampton filed timely objections to the R&R (the “Objections”). (See ECF #19.)

         The Court has conducted a de novo review of the portions of the R&R to which Hampton has objected. While the Court appreciates the Magistrate Judge's careful consideration of the issues presented in the motions, for the reasons explained below, the Court respectfully disagrees with one aspect of his analysis and recommended disposition. Accordingly, the Court SUSTAINS IN PART AND OVERRULES IN PART Hampton's objections, GRANTS IN PART Hampton's motion for summary judgment, DENIES the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment, and REMANDS this action to the Commissioner for further administrative proceedings consistent with this Opinion and Order.

         I[1]

         A

         On May 8, 2013, Hampton filed an application for disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act (the “Application”). (See Application, ECF #6-6 at Pg. ID 205-216.) Hampton alleged that her period of disability began on December 1, 2012. (See id.) In the Application, Hampton claimed that she suffered from a number of disabling conditions, including:

. fibromyalgia
. severe depression
. muscle damage and rotator cuff damage in both shoulders .carpal tunnel syndrome; and
. torn tendons in both elbows.

(See Id. at Pg. ID 209.) On July 18, 2013, the Social Security Administration (the “SSA”) denied the Application on the ground that Hampton was not disabled. (See Denial Letter, ECF #6-4 at Pg. ID 139-42.)

         Hampton thereafter filed a written request for a hearing before an administrative law judge. (See Hearing Request, ECF #6-4 at Pg. ID 143-44.) The hearing was held on October 8, 2014 before an administrative law judge (the “ALJ”). (See Hearing Tr., ECF #6-2 at Pg. ID 68.)

         Hampton testified as follows at the hearing:

. She stopped working in November 2012. (See Id. at Pg. ID 76.) Before that time, she worked as a part-time salesperson at a beauty supply store. (See id.)
. She has been unable to work due to symptoms related to fibromyalgia, which include “headaches every day, neck pain, shoulder pain, [pain in her] arms, wrist, hands, hips, [] knees, [] feet, [] back[, and] practically [her] whole body.” (Id. at Pg. ID 82.) She also testified that that her body feels like she has rigor mortis. (See id.)
. Her carpal tunnel syndrome and other wrist problems were getting worse and were making it more difficult for her to use her upper extremities. (See Id. at Pg. ID 85-86.)
. She can sit and stand for about ten minutes and experiences pain after walking “about 20, 25 feet.” (Id. at Pg. ID 93.) . She rarely drives, and when she does, she is able to drive for fifteen minutes. (See Id. at Pg. ID 74-75.)
. She cannot get into a bathtub, and she typically requires assistance from a family member while bathing. (See Id. at Pg. ID 87, 96.)
. She performs “very few” chores, and “very rarely” does dishes or laundry. (Id. at Pg. ID 93, 96.) She does not vacuum, mop, sweep, or dust the house. (See Id. at Pg. ID 96.)
. She “very rarely” goes shopping by herself and instead shops with her son or daughter. (Id. at Pg. ID 94.) She needs to take frequent breaks while shopping and sometimes waits at a bench while her family shops without her. (See id.)
. She has memory loss. When she watches television, she has difficulty following and understanding what is happening. (See Id. at Pg. ID 97.)
. She cannot sleep more than three or four hours at night. (See Id. at Pg. ID 99, 109.) As a result, she typically takes a “couple” “hour and a half naps during the daytime. (Id. at Pg. ID 99.)
. Since December 2012, she has traveled only twice. She attended a family wedding, and she took a day-trip to check on a family owned property. (See Id. at Pg. ID 102.) During the seventy-five minute ride to the destination of the day-trip, she needed the driver of the vehicle to stop “a couple of times.” (Id.)
. She has a dog, but she last took the dog for a walk two or three years ago. (See Id. at Pg. ID 110.)
. Her symptoms and impairments prevent her from working. (See id.)

         A vocational expert also testified at the hearing. To guide the vocational expert in her testimony, the ALJ described a hypothetical individual of Hampton's age, educational level, and work experience, who had the following functional limitations:

[T]his individual is limited to sedentary work. They could perform occasional pushing and pulling. They could occasionally operate foot controls. They could never climb ladders, ropes, scaffolds. They could occasionally climb ramps or stairs; occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl. They could perform occasional overhead reaching. They would be limited to frequent handling of objects and fingering bilaterally. They would have to avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold, extreme heat, and to humidity. They would have to avoid concentrated exposure to environmental irritants such as fumes, odors, dust, and gases. They would have to avoid all exposure to excessive vibration, all use of hazardous moving machinery, all exposure to unprotected heights. Additionally, this work would be limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks, performed in a work environment free of fast-paced production requirements, involving only simple work-related decisions and routine workplace changes.

(Id. at Pg. ID 114-15.) The vocational expert testified that the above-described hypothetical individual could not perform Hampton's past relevant work as a salesperson, but could perform the sedentary, unskilled work of an information clerk, general office clerk, and hand packer. (See Id. at Pg. ID 115-116.)

         The vocational expert also testified that an individual would be unable to perform any jobs in the national economy if the above hypothetical was amended to add any one of the following functional limitations:

. the need to be “off task 20 percent of the day in addition to [] regularly scheduled ...

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