United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S OPINION AND ORDER ON CROSS
MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOCS. 15, 20)
PATRICIA T. MORRIS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
light of the entire record in this case, I suggest that
substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's
determination that Jackson is not disabled. Accordingly,
IT IS RECOMMENDED that Jackson's Motion
for Summary Judgment, (Doc. 15), be DENIED,
the Commissioner's Motion, (Doc. 20), be
GRANTED, and this case be
Introduction and Procedural History
an action for judicial review of a final decision by the
Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff Valerie
Darlene Jackson's (“Jackson”) claims for
disability benefits under the Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) program of Title II, 42 U.S.C. § 401
et seq., and the Supplemental Security Income
Benefits (“SSI”) program of Title XVI, 42 U.S.C.
§ 1381 et seq. (Doc. 1). The case is before the
undersigned magistrate judge pursuant to the parties'
consent under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), E.D. Mich. LR
72.1(b)(3), and by Notice of Reference. (Docs. 14, 16). The
matter is currently before the Court on cross-motions for
summary judgment. (Docs. 15, 20).
December 2, 2013, Jackson filed an application for DIB
alleging a disability onset date of January 1, 1980. (Tr.
152-58). She followed this with an application for SSI on
December 21, 2013, alleging the same disability onset date.
(Tr. 159-67). The Commissioner denied her claims. (Tr. 51,
65). Jackson then requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), which occurred
on May 12, 2015, before ALJ Frederick McGrath. (Tr. 36-50).
At the hearing, she amended her alleged onset date to June 1,
2014. (Tr. 38). The ALJ's written decision, issued June
5, 2013, found Jackson not disabled. (Tr. 20-35). On October
27, 2016, the Appeals Council denied review, (Tr. 1-6), and
Jackson filed for judicial review of that final decision on
December 19, 2016. (Doc. 1).
Standard of Review
district court has jurisdiction to review the
Commissioner's final administrative decision pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The district court's review is
restricted solely to determining whether the
“Commissioner has failed to apply the correct legal
standard or has made findings of fact unsupported by
substantial evidence in the record.” Sullivan v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 595 F App'x. 502, 506 (6th
Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted). 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 v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
Court must examine the administrative record as a whole, and
may consider any evidence in the record, regardless of
whether it has been cited by the ALJ. See Walker v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 884 F.2d 241,
245 (6th Cir. 1989). The Court will not “try the case
de novo, nor resolve conflicts in the evidence, nor decide
questions of credibility.” Cutlip v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir.
1994). If the Commissioner's decision is supported by
substantial evidence, “it must be affirmed even if the
reviewing court would decide the matter differently and even
if substantial evidence also supports the opposite
conclusion.” Id. at 286 (internal citations
Framework for Disability Determinations
the Act, “DIB and SSI are available only for those who
have a ‘disability.'” Colvin v.
Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007).
“Disability” means the inability
to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of
any medically determinable physical or mental impairment
which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted
or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not
less than [twelve] months.
42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A) (DIB); 20
C.F.R. § 416.905(a) (SSI). The Commissioner's
regulations provide that disability is to be determined
through the application of a five-step sequential analysis:
(i) At the first step, we consider your work activity, if
any. If you are doing substantial gainful activity, we will
find that you are not disabled.
(ii) At the second step, we consider the medical severity of
your impairment(s). If you do not have a severe medically
determinable physical or mental impairment that meets the
duration requirement . . . or a combination of impairments
that is severe and meets the duration requirement, we will
find that you are not disabled.
(iii) At the third step, we also consider the medical
severity of your impairment(s). If you have an impairment(s)
that meets or equals one of our listings in appendix 1 of
this subpart and meets the duration requirement, we will find
that you are disabled.
(iv) At the fourth step, we consider our assessment of your
residual functional capacity and your past relevant work. If
you can still do your past relevant work, we will find that
you are not disabled.
(v) At the fifth and last step, we condiser our assessment of
your residual functional capacity and your age, education,
and work experience to see if you can make an adjustment to
other work. If you can make an adjustment to other work, we
will find that you are not disabled. If you cannot make an
adjustment to other work, we will find that you are disabled.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920; see also Heston
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 245 F.3d 528, 534 (6th Cir.
2001). “Through step four, the claimant bears the
burden of proving the existence and severity of limitations
caused by [his or] her impairments and the fact that she is
precluded from performing [his or] her past relevant
work.” Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336
F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003). The burden transfers to the
Commissioner if the analysis reaches the fifth step without a
finding that the claimant is not disabled. 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 [the claimant] could perform given
[his or] her RFC [residual functional capacity] and
considering relevant vocational factors.”
Rogers, 486 F.3d at 241 (citing 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(a)(4)(v), (g)).
the authority of the Social Security Act, the SSA has
promulgated regulations that provide for the payment of
disabled child's insurance benefits if the claimant is at
least eighteen years old and has a disability that began
before age twenty-two (20 C.F.R. 404.350(a) (5) (2013). A
claimant must establish a medically determinable physical or
mental impairment (expected to last at least twelve months or
result in death) that rendered her unable to engage in
substantial gainful activity. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
The regulations provide a five-step sequential evaluation for
evaluating disability claims. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520.
the five-step sequential analysis, the ALJ found Jackson not
disabled. (Tr. 23-31). At Step One, the ALJ found that
Jackson last met the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act on December 31, 2017, and had not engaged
in substantial gainful activity in the interval between her
alleged onset date of June 1, 2014 and her date last insured.
(Tr. 25). At Step Two, the ALJ concluded that the following
impairments qualified as severe: degenerative disc disease
and arthritis of L5, chronic edema of the legs and chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease, and obesity. (Tr. 25). The ALJ
also decided, however, that none of these met or medically
equaled a listed impairment at Step Three. (Tr. 26).
Thereafter, the ALJ found that Jackson had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work
the claimant should never climb ladders, ropes, and
scaffolds. This claimant is precluded from work around
unprotected heights and dangerous machinery. In addition,
this claimant should not engage in repetitive stooping and
squatting. Further, this claimant should avoid ...