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Girouard-Bono v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

December 19, 2017

CAROL GIROUARD-BONO, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Honorable Gershwin A. Drain Judge.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [8, 9]

          DAVID R. GRAND United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Carol Girouard-Bono (“Girouard-Bono”) brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), challenging the final decision of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under the Social Security Act (the “Act”). Both parties have filed summary judgment motions (Docs. #8, 9), which have been referred to this Court for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).

         I. RECOMMENDATION

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that the Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ”) conclusion that Girouard-Bono is not disabled under the Act is not supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the Court recommends that the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #9) be DENIED, Girouard-Bono's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #8) be GRANTED IN PART to the extent it seeks remand and DENIED IN PART to the extent it seeks an award of benefits, and that, pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this case be REMANDED to the ALJ for further proceedings consistent with this Recommendation.

         II. REPORT

         A. Background

         Girouard-Bono was 49 years old at the time of her alleged onset date of January 1, 2008. (Tr. 54-55). For DIB purposes, her date last insured was September 30, 2010. (Tr. 54). She completed high school but had no further education. (Tr. 155). Girouard-Bono has prior work history as a janitor, medical assistant, teacher's aide, office clerk, and cashier. (Tr. 154-56, 173). She alleges disability as a result of breast cancer, back pain, arthritis, migraine headaches, shoulder pain, and anxiety. (Tr. 54-55, 154).

         After Girouard-Bono's application for DIB was denied at the initial level on March 6, 2014 (Tr. 67-70), she timely requested an administrative hearing, which was held on December 7, 2015, before ALJ Ena Weathers (Tr. 24-52). Girouard-Bono, who was represented by attorney William Biebuyck, testified at the hearing, as did vocational expert Pauline Pegram. (Id.). On February 1, 2016, the ALJ issued a written decision finding that Girouard-Bono is not disabled under the Act. (Tr. 12-19). On February 6, 2017, the Appeals Council denied review. (Tr. 1-3). Girouard-Bono timely filed for judicial review of the final decision on March 21, 2017. (Doc. #1).

         The Court has thoroughly reviewed the transcript in this matter, including Girouard-Bono's medical record, Function and Disability Reports, and testimony as to her conditions and resulting limitations. Instead of summarizing that information here, the Court will make references and provide citations to the transcript as necessary in its discussion of the parties' arguments.

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

         Under the Act, DIB are available only for those who have a “disability.” See Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007). The Act defines “disability” as 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. § 423(d)(1)(A).

         The Commissioner's regulations provide that a disability is to be determined through the application of a five-step sequential analysis:

Step One: If the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity, benefits are denied ...

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