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Russell v. Berryhill

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

November 20, 2017

COREY RUSSELL, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Honorable George Caram Steeh

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF. NOS. 15, 17]

          ELIZABETH A. STAFFORD United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Corey Russell appeals a final decision of defendant Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) denying his application for supplemental social security income benefits (SSI) under the Social Security Act. Both parties have filed summary judgment motions, referred to this Court for a report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). After review of the record, the Court finds that the administrative law judge's (ALJ) decision is supported by substantial evidence, and thus RECOMMENDS that:

. Russell's motion [ECF No. 15] be DENIED;
. the Commissioner's motion [ECF No. 17] be GRANTED; and
. the Commissioner's decision be AFFIRMED pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Background and Disability Applications

         Russell was born on May 12, 1975, making him 35 years old on his alleged onset date of August 22, 2011. [ECF No. 11-5, Tr. 131]. His highest completed level of education is the eighth grade, and he has prior work history as a bar code scanner, laborer, and warehouse quality inspector. [ECF No. 11-6, Tr. 152-53]. He alleged disability due to Erb's palsy, mood swings, hallucinations, depression, panic attacks, and anxiety. [ECF No. 11-6, Tr. 151].

         After the Commissioner denied his disability application initially, Russell requested a hearing, which took place in July 2015, during which he and a vocational expert (VE) testified. [ECF No. 11-2, Tr. 36-68]. In an August 19, 2015, written decision, the ALJ found Russell to be not disabled. [Id., Tr. 32]. The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner, and Russell timely filed for judicial review. [Id., Tr. 1-3; ECF No. 1].

         B. The ALJ's Application of the Disability Framework Analysis

         SSI is available for those who have a “disability.” See Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007). A “disability” is 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 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A).

         The Commissioner determines whether an applicant is disabled by analyzing five sequential steps. First, if the applicant is “doing substantial gainful activity, ” he or she will be found not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). Second, if the claimant has not had a severe impairment or a combination of such impairments[1] for a continuous period of at least 12 months, no disability will be found. Id. Third, if the claimant's severe impairments meet or equal the criteria of an impairment set forth in the Commissioner's Listing of Impairments, the claimant will be found disabled. Id. If the fourth step is reached, the Commissioner considers its assessment of the claimant's residual functional capacity, and will find the claimant not disabled if he or she can still do past relevant work. Id. At the final step, the Commissioner reviews the claimant's RFC, age, education and work experiences, and determines whether the claimant could adjust to other work. Id. The claimant bears the burden of proof throughout the first four steps, but the burden shifts to the Commissioner if the fifth step is reached. Preslar v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994).

         Applying this framework, the ALJ concluded that Russell was not disabled. At the first step, he found that Russell had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date. [ECF No. 11-2, Tr. 20]. At the second step, the ALJ found that Russell had the severe impairments of “history of Erb's palsy with no use of the right upper extremity; subscapularis muscle tear, right shoulder; lumbar spine arthritis; history of bipolar disorder; major depression; anxiety; mood disorder; antisocial personality disorder; paranoid personality disorder; intellectual disability; and history of substance abuse, in remission.” ...


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