United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
(DKT. 21, 24)
Stephanie Dawkins Davis, United States Magistrate Judge.
Proceedings in this Court
22, 2016, plaintiff filed the instant suit seeking judicial
review of the Commissioner's decision disallowing social
security disability benefits. (Dkt. 1). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 72.1(b)(3), District Judge
Thomas L. Ludington referred this matter to the undersigned
magistrate judge for the purpose of reviewing the
Commissioner's decision denying plaintiff's claims.
(Dkt. 3). On September 9, 2016, the parties filed a notice of
consent to this Magistrate Judge's authority, which was
signed by Judge Ludington on September 13, 2016. (Dkt. 15,
16). The matter is before the Court on cross-motions for
summary judgment. (Dkt. 21, 24). A hearing on the cross-
motions for summary judgment was held on June 14, 2016,
pursuant to notice. (Dkt. 25).
21, 2013, plaintiff filed claims for period of disability and
disability insurance benefits, alleging disability beginning
August 1, 2009. (Dkt. 18-2, Pg ID 51). The Commissioner
initially denied plaintiff's disability application on
October 8, 2013. Id. Thereafter, plaintiff requested
an administrative hearing, and on February 18, 2015, she
appeared without counsel before Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) John A. Ransom, who considered his case
de novo. (Dkt. 18-2, Pg ID 62-80). In a February 25,
2015 decision, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act.
Id. at Pg ID 48-58. The ALJ's decision became
the final decision of the Commissioner on June 3, 2016, when
the Social Security Administration's Appeals Council
denied plaintiff's request for review. Id. at Pg
reasons set forth below, the undersigned
DENIES plaintiff's motion for summary
judgment, GRANTS defendant's motion for
summary judgment, and AFFIRMS the findings
of the Commissioner.
last date insured, plaintiff was 35 years old, which falls
into the category of “a younger individual.”
(Dkt. 18-2, Pg ID 57). Plaintiff, a resident of Flint,
Michigan, has past relevant work as a support staff nurse
aide, which is semi-skilled and heavy in exertion, and as a
sales manager, which is exertionally sedentary and
semi-skilled. Id. Plaintiff suffers from hip pain,
back pain, neck pain, and shoulder pain. (Dkt. 18-2, Pg ID
53). Plaintiff stopped working in 2009 because her physician
advised her to stop working due to her back condition. (Dkt.
18-2, Pg ID 66).
applied the five-step disability analysis to plaintiff's
claims and found at step one that plaintiff did not engage in
any substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset
date. (Dkt. 18-2, Pg ID 53). At step two, the ALJ found that
plaintiff had the following severe impairments: left hip
pain, neck and back pain, and right shoulder pain.
Id. At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff did
not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met
or equaled one of the listings in the regulations.
Id. at Pg ID 53-54. The ALJ determined that
plaintiff's residual functional capacity (RFC) as
After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that, through the date last insured, the
claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform
sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a); with no
repetitive bending, twisting or turning; occasional crawling,
squatting, kneeling, and stair climbing; occasional pushing
or pulling; no use of air or vibrating tools; no prolonged
walking or standing; no overhead work; occasional keyboarding
and fine dexterity of the right upper extremity with no
limits on the left upper extremity with respect to fine
Id. at Pg ID 54. At step four, the ALJ determined
that plaintiff could not perform any past relevant work.
Id. at Pg ID 57. At step five, the ALJ found that,
given plaintiff's age, education, work experience and
RFC, there are sufficient jobs that exist in the national
economy that plaintiff can perform. Id. Therefore,
the ALJ concluded that plaintiff has not been under a
disability from the alleged onset date through the last date
insured. Id. at Pg ID 58.
Standard of Review
Court has original jurisdiction to review the
Commissioner's final administrative decision pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Judicial review under this statute
is limited in that the court “must affirm the
Commissioner's conclusions absent a determination that
the Commissioner has failed to apply the correct legal
standard or has made findings of fact unsupported by
substantial evidence in the record.” Longworth v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 402 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir.
2005); Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d
525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997). In deciding whether substantial
evidence supports the ALJ's decision, “we do not
try the case de novo, resolve conflicts in evidence, or
decide questions of credibility.” Bass v.
McMahon, 499 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 2007); Garner
v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984). “It
is of course for the ALJ, and not the reviewing court, to
evaluate the credibility of witnesses, including that of the
claimant.” Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
486 F.3d 234, 247 (6th Cir. 2007). “However, the ALJ is
not free to make credibility determinations based solely upon
an ‘intangible or intuitive notion about an
individual's credibility.'” Rogers,
486 F.3d at 247, quoting Soc. Sec. Rul. 96-7p, 1996 WL
supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's
findings of fact are conclusive. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Therefore, this Court may not reverse the Commissioner's
decision merely because it disagrees or because “there
exists in the record substantial evidence to support a
different conclusion.” McClanahan v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 474 F.3d 830, 833 (6th Cir. 2006); Mullen
v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986) (en
banc). Substantial evidence is “more than a
scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance; it is
such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Rogers, 486
F.3d at 241; Jones, 336 F.3d at 475. “The
substantial evidence standard presupposes that there is a
‘zone of choice' within which the Commissioner may
proceed without interference from the courts.”
Felisky v. Bowen, 35 F.3d 1027, 1035 (6th Cir. 1994)
(citations omitted), citing Mullen, 800 F.2d at 545.
Commissioner's regulations provide that disability is to
be determined through the application of a five-step
Step One: If the claimant is currently engaged in substantial
gainful activity, benefits are denied without further
Step Two: If the claimant does not have a severe impairment
or combination of impairments, that “significantly
limits ... physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities, ” benefits are denied without further
Step Three: If plaintiff is not performing substantial
gainful activity, has a severe impairment that is expected to
last for at least twelve months, and the severe impairment
meets or equals one of the impairments listed in the
regulations, the claimant is conclusively presumed to be
disabled regardless of age, education or work experience.
Step Four: If the claimant is able to perform his or her past
relevant work, benefits are denied without further analysis.
Step Five: Even if the claimant is unable to perform his or
her past relevant work, if other work exists in the national
economy that plaintiff can perform, in view of his or her
age, education, and work experience, benefits are denied.
Carpenter v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 2008 WL
4793424 (E.D. Mich. 2008), citing, 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520, 416.920; Heston, 245 F.3d at 534.
“If the Commissioner makes a dispositive finding at any
point in the five-step process, the review terminates.”
Colvin, 475 F.3d at 730.
step four, the claimant bears the burden of proving the
existence and severity of limitations caused by her
impairments and the fact that she is precluded from
performing her past relevant work.” Jones, 336
F.3d at 474, cited with approval in Cruse, 502 F.3d
at 540. If the analysis reaches the fifth step without a
finding that the claimant is not disabled, the burden
transfers to the Commissioner. Combs v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 459 F.3d 640, 643 (6th Cir. 2006). At the
fifth step, the Commissioner is required to show that
“other jobs in significant numbers exist in the
national economy that ...