United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
JAMES O. MOORE, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
Paul L. Maloney, J.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
KENT, United States Magistrate Judge
brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),
seeking judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(Commissioner) denying his claim for disability insurance
benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI).
alleged a disability onset date of November 17, 2007.
PageID.340. Plaintiff testified that his disability arose
from injuries suffered in an automobile accident in November
2007. PageID.142. Plaintiff identified his disabling
conditions as: head injuries; neck problems; back problems;
broken bones in skull; broken ribs; and complications from
the accident. PageID.340. Prior to filing his application for
DIB, plaintiff completed the 12th grade and had past
employment as a production machinist in an automotive
factory. PageID.341, 346. The administrative law judge (ALJ)
reviewed plaintiff's claim de novo and entered a
written decision denying benefits on August 31, 2012.
PageID.86-97. Plaintiff appealed the decision to this Court,
which remanded the matter back to the Commissioner for
further fact finding. See Moore v. Commissioner,
1:14-cv-375 (Order) (ECF No. 20). On remand, the ALJ held a
second hearing, reviewed plaintiff's claim de
novo, and entered a written decision denying benefits on
June 29, 2016. PageID.576-591, 601-621. This decision, which
was later approved by the Appeals Council, has become the
final decision of the Commissioner and is now before the
Court for review.
Court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
typically focused on determining whether the
Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial
evidence. 42 U.S.C. §405(g); McKnight v.
Sullivan, 927 F.2d 241 (6th Cir. 1990).
“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.” Cutlip v. Secretary of
Health & Human Services, 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir.
1994). A determination of substantiality of the evidence must
be based upon the record taken as a whole. Young v.
Secretary of Health & Human Services, 925 F.2d 146
(6th Cir. 1990).
scope of this review is limited to an examination of the
record only. This Court does not review the evidence de
novo, make credibility determinations or weigh the
evidence. Brainard v. Secretary of Health & Human
Services, 889 F.2d 679, 681 (6th Cir. 1989). The fact
that the record also contains evidence which would have
supported a different conclusion does not undermine the
Commissioner's decision so long as there is substantial
support for that decision in the record. Willbanks v.
Secretary of Health & Human Services, 847 F.2d 301,
303 (6th Cir. 1988). Even if the reviewing court would
resolve the dispute differently, the Commissioner's
decision must stand if it is supported by substantial
evidence. Young, 925 F.2d at 147.
claimant must prove that he suffers from a disability in
order to be entitled to benefits. A disability is established
by showing that the claimant cannot engage in 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.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505 and 416.905;
Abbott v. Sullivan, 905 F.2d 918, 923 (6th Cir.
1990). In applying the above standard, the Commissioner has
developed a five-step analysis:
The Social Security Act requires the Secretary to follow a
“five-step sequential process” for claims of
disability. First, plaintiff must demonstrate that she is not
currently engaged in “substantial gainful
activity” at the time she seeks disability benefits.
Second, plaintiff must show that she suffers from a
“severe impairment” in order to warrant a finding
of disability. A “severe impairment” is one which
“significantly limits . . . physical or mental ability
to do basic work activities.” Third, if plaintiff is
not performing substantial gainful activity, has a severe
impairment that is expected to last for at least twelve
months, and the impairment meets a listed impairment,
plaintiff is presumed to be disabled regardless of age,
education or work experience. Fourth, if the plaintiff's
impairment does not prevent her from doing her past relevant
work, plaintiff is not disabled. For the fifth and final
step, even if the plaintiff's impairment does prevent her
from doing her past relevant work, if other work exists in
the national economy that plaintiff can perform, plaintiff is
Heston v. Commissioner of Social Security, 245 F.3d
528, 534 (6th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted).
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 through step four. Jones v. Commissioner of Social
Security, 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003). However, at
step five of the inquiry, “the burden shifts to the
Commissioner to identify a significant number of jobs in the
economy that accommodate the claimant's residual
functional capacity (determined at step four) and vocational
profile.” Id. If it is determined that a
claimant is or is not disabled at any point in the evaluation
process, further review is not necessary. Mullis
v. Bowen, 861 F.2d 991, 993 (6th Cir. 1988).
federal court's standard of review for SSI cases mirrors
the standard applied in social security disability
cases.” D'Angelo v. Commissioner of Social
Security, 475 F.Supp.2d 716, 719 (W.D. Mich. 2007).
“The proper inquiry in an application for SSI benefits
is whether the plaintiff was disabled on or after her
application date.” Casey v. Secretary of Health and
Human Services, 987 F.2d 1230, 1233 (6th Cir. 1993).
claim failed at the fifth step of the evaluation. At the
first step, the ALJ found that plaintiff has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date of
November 17, 2007 and that he met the insured status
requirements of the Act through December 31, 2012.
PageID.578. At the second step, the ALJ found that plaintiff
has the following severe impairments: history of cervical
spine fusion (2003); history of facial fractures; right knee
chondrocalcinosis, status post 1997 arthroscopic repair;
obesity; degenerative disc disease and spondylosis of the
spine; headaches; and, affective disorder. PageID.578. At the
third step, the ALJ found that plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled
the requirements of the Listing of Impairments in 20 C.F.R.
Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1. PageID.584.
decided at the fourth step that:
[C]laimant has the residual functional capacity to perform
light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b)
except: he can occasionally climb, stoop, and crouch; he can
frequently balance, kneel, and crawl; he can have frequent
exposure to vibration and fumes; he can perform simple,
routine and repetitive work involving occasional interaction
PageID.585. The ALJ also found that plaintiff was unable to
perform any past relevant work. PageID.589.
fifth step, the ALJ determined that plaintiff could perform a
significant number of unskilled, light exertional jobs in the
national economy. PageID.590. Specifically, the ALJ found
that plaintiff could perform the following unskilled work in
the national economy: assembler (467, 000 jobs);
sorter/packer (337, 000 jobs); and inspector (136, 000 jobs).
PageID.590. Accordingly, the ALJ determined that plaintiff
has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social
Security Act, from November 17, 2007 (the alleged onset date)
through June 29, 2016 (the date of the decision). PageID.591.