United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
DEBRA F. LITTLE, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
TERRENCE G. BERG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case is an appeal of the denial of Plaintiff's
application for social security disability insurance
benefits. This matter is before the Court on Magistrate Judge
Anthony P. Patti's report and recommendation dated August
14, 2017 (Dkt. 26), recommending that Plaintiff's motion
for summary judgment be granted, that Defendant's motion
for summary judgment be denied, and that this matter be
remanded for further proceedings.
provides that either party may serve and file written
objections “[w]ithin fourteen days after being served
with a copy” of the report and recommendation. 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Defendant filed timely objections
(Dkt. 27) to the report and recommendation; Plaintiff filed a
response to Defendant's objections (Dkt. 28). A district
court must conduct a de novo review of the parts of a report
and recommendation to which a party objects. See 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). “A judge of the court may
accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings
or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. The judge
may also receive further evidence or recommit the matter to
the magistrate judge with instructions.” Id.
Court has reviewed Magistrate Judge Patti's report and
recommendation, and Defendant's objections thereto. For
the reasons set forth below, Defendant's objections are
OVERRULED, and the report and recommendation
is ACCEPTED and ADOPTED as
the opinion of the Court. Consequently, Plaintiff's
motion for summary judgment is GRANTED,
Defendant's motion for summary judgment is
DENIED, and this matter is
REMANDED pursuant to sentence four of to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) for further proceedings, consistent with
the discussion below.
The Social Security Act
Social Security Act “entitles benefits to certain
claimants who, by virtue of a medically determinable physical
or mental impairment of at least a year's expected
duration, cannot engage in ‘substantial gainful
activity.'” Combs v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 459 F.3d 640, 642 (6th Cir. 2006) (en banc)
(quoting 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A)). A claimant qualifies
as disabled “if she cannot, in light of her age,
education, and work experience, ‘engage in any other
kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national
economy.'” Combs, 459 F.3d at 642 (quoting
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A)).
the authority of the Act, the Social Security Administration
(SSA) has established a five-step sequential evaluation
process for determining whether an individual is disabled.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4). The five steps
are as follows:
In step one, the SSA identifies claimants who “are
doing substantial gainful activity” and concludes that
these claimants are not disabled. [20 C.F.R.] §
404.1520(a)(4)(i). If claimants get past this step, the SSA
at step two considers the “medical severity” of
claimants' impairments, particularly whether such
impairments have lasted or will last for at least twelve
months. Id. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii). Claimants
with impairments of insufficient duration are not disabled.
See id. Those with impairments that have lasted or
will last at least twelve months proceed to step three.
At step three, the SSA examines the severity of
claimants' impairments but with a view not solely to
their duration but also to the degree of affliction imposed.
Id. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). Claimants are
conclusively presumed to be disabled if they suffer from an
infirmity that appears on the SSA's special list of
impairments, or that is at least equal in severity to those
listed. Id. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), (d). The
list identifies and defines impairments that are of
sufficient severity as to prevent any gainful activity.
See Sullivan v. Zebley, 493 U.S. 521, 532 (1990). A
person with such an impairment or an equivalent,
consequently, necessarily satisfies the statutory definition
of disability. For such claimants, the process ends at step
three. Claimants with lesser impairments proceed to step
In the fourth step, the SSA evaluates claimant's
“residual functional capacity, ” defined as
“the most [the claimant] can still do despite [her]
limitations.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1).
Claimants whose residual functional capacity permits them to
perform their “past relevant work” are not
disabled. Id. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), (f).
“Past relevant work” is defined as work claimants
have done within the past fifteen years that is
“substantial gainful activity” and that lasted
long enough for the claimant to learn to do it. Id.
§ 404.1560(b)(1). Claimants who can still do their past
relevant work are not disabled. Those who cannot do their
past relevant work proceed to the fifth step, in which the
SSA determines whether claimants, in light of their residual
functional capacity, age, education, and work experience, can
perform “substantial gainful activity” other than
their past relevant work. See id. §
404.1520(a)(4)(v), (g)(1). Claimants who can perform such
work are not disabled. See id.; §
Combs, 459 F.3d at 642-43.
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 v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir.
2003). If the analysis reaches the fifth step, the burden
transfers to the Commissioner. See Combs, 459 F.3d
at 643. At that point, the Commissioner is required to show
that “other jobs in significant numbers exist in the
national economy that [claimant] could perform given her RFC
and considering relevant vocational factors.”
Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241
(6th Cir. 2007); 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a)(4)(v) and
review of the Commissioner's final decision is authorized
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Where the Appeals
Council denies review, the ALJ's decision stands as the
Commissioner's final decision. See 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.981. Judicial review, however, is circumscribed 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). Substantial evidence is
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept to support the ALJ's conclusion.” Bass
v. McMahon, 499 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 2007) (quotation
marks omitted) (quoting Foster v. Halter, 279 F.3d
348, 353 (6th Cir. 2001)). This substantial evidence standard
is less exacting than the preponderance of evidence standard.
See Bass, 499 F.3d at 509 (citing Bell v.