United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
KEVIN M. THOMAS, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
ORDER AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT  AND GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT 
K. MAJZOUB UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Plaintiff Kevin Thomas seeks
judicial review of Defendant Commissioner of Social
Security's determination that he is not entitled to
social security benefits. (Docket no. 1.) Before the Court
are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no.
14) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket
no. 18). 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. 15.) The Court has reviewed the
pleadings and dispenses with a hearing pursuant to Eastern
District of Michigan Local Rule 7.1(f)(2).
12, 2013, Plaintiff applied for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) on the basis of several physical and
mental impairments. (TR 34.) The Social Security
Administration initially denied Plaintiff's claims on
September 27, 2013. (TR 100-03.) On June 18, 2015, Plaintiff
appeared with a representative and testified at a hearing
before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) JoErin O'Leavy. (TR
31.) On July 31, 2015, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision
on Plaintiff's claims. (TR 31-43.) Plaintiff requested a
review of the ALJ's decision with the Appeals Council,
which was denied on August 12, 2016. (TR 1.) On October 5,
2016, Plaintiff commenced this action for judicial review,
and the parties filed cross motions for summary judgment,
which are currently before the Court. (Docket no. 14; docket
HEARING TESTIMONY AND MEDICAL EVIDENCE
sets forth a brief procedural history of this matter as well
as a short summary of the relevant medical records. (Docket
no. 14, pp. 1-6.) The ALJ summarized Plaintiff's medical
records (TR 38-42), and Defendant provided an additional
summary of Plaintiff's medical and non-medical records
(docket no. 18, pp. 2-7). Having conducted an independent
review of Plaintiff's medical record and the hearing
transcript, the undersigned finds that there are no material
inconsistencies among these recitations of the record.
Therefore, in lieu of re-summarizing this information, the
undersigned will incorporate the above-cited factual
recitations by reference and will also make references and
citations to the record as necessary to address the
parties' arguments throughout this opinion.
ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE'S DETERMINATION
determined that Plaintiff did not engage in substantial
gainful activity since June 12, 2013, the application date.
(TR 36.) In addition, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the
following severe impairments: “asthma, affective
disorder, anxiety disorder, and personality disorder.”
(Id.) Nevertheless, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff
did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
(Id.) In addition, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff
retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
to do a full range of work at all exertional levels with the
following non-exertional limitations: he was unable to climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; he could not work around
unprotected heights or dangerous moving mechanical parts; he
should avoid concentrated exposure to dust, odors, fumes,
pulmonary irritants, and extreme temperatures; he was limited
to simple, routine, repetitive tasks not at a production rate
pace; he was limited to simple work-related decisions; and he
could occasionally interact with supervisors and coworkers
but never with the public. (TR. 38.) On the basis of this
determination, the ALJ posed a hypothetical to the Vocational
Expert (“VE”), who testified Plaintiff is capable
of performing occupations that exist in significant numbers
in the national economy, including cook helper, cleaner, and
clerical assistant. (TR 42-43.) Consequently, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff was not under a disability, as
defined in the Social Security Act, at any time since June
12, 2013, the application date. (TR 43.)
LAW AND ANALYSIS
Standard of Review
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).
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 the
substantial evidence standard “presupposes that there
is a zone of choice within which the decisionmakers can go
either way, without interference by the courts”).
“But ‘[a]n ALJ's failure to follow agency
rules and regulations denotes a lack of substantial evidence,
even where the conclusion of the ALJ may be justified based
upon the record.'” Gayheart v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 710 F.3d 365, 374 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting
Cole v. Astrue, 661 F.3d 931, 937 (6th Cir. 2011)).
Framework for Social Security Determinations
Social Security disability determination was made in
accordance with a five-step sequential analysis. In the first