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Hall v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

January 10, 2018

AMANDA GRACE HALL, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Judge Denise Page Hood

         REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO DENY PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DE 14), GRANT DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DE 15) AND AFFIRM THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION

          ANTHONY P. PATTI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. RECOMMENDATION:

         For the reasons that follow, it is RECOMMENDED that the Court DENY Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (DE 14), GRANT Defendant's motion for summary judgment (DE 15), and AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision.

         II. REPORT

         Plaintiff, Amanda Grace Hall, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3) for review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying her application for supplemental security income (SSI) benefits. This matter is before the United States Magistrate Judge for a Report and Recommendation on Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (DE 14), the Commissioner's cross motion for summary judgment (DE 15), and the administrative record (DE 12).

         A. Background

         On April 22, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI benefits, alleging that she has been disabled since December 31, 2006. (See R. at 179-84.) Plaintiff alleges disability primarily based upon bipolar disorder. Her application was denied on September 19, 2013. She sought a de novo hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), which was conducted on March 23, 2015. (See R. at 33-78, 93-96, 98-99.)

         On April 15, 2015, ALJ Dennis M. Matulewicz determined that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (See R. at 11-28.) Plaintiff requested review of the hearing decision. On June 7, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (See R. at 1-6.) Thus, the ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final decision. Plaintiff then timely commenced the instant action on August 11, 2016. (DE 1.) Her testimony and medical records will be discussed as necessary in the analysis which appears below, in lieu of summarizing them here.

         B. The Administrative Decision[1]

         At Step 1 of the ALJ's decision denying benefits, he determined that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 22, 2013, the application date. (R. at 16.) At Step 2, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: bipolar disorder, depressive disorder, personality disorder, and an alcohol/substance abuse disorder. (R. at 16-19.) At Step 3, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments. (R. at 19-20.) Prior to Step 4, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform “light work … except that she should avoid using ladders, scaffolds, or ropes; should avoid concentrated exposure to hazards, including dangerous/unprotected machinery or work at unprotected heights; is limited to simple unskilled work with a specific vocational preparation (SVP) rating of one or two; can perform work that requires only occasional interpersonal interaction, contact, and discussion with co-workers; may engage in routine work that does not require changes or adaptations in work settings or duties more than once per month; is limited to work requiring less than occasional contact with the general public; and is limited to jobs without production quotas mandating a specific number of pieces per hour or with a down line co-worker depending on claimant productivity.” (R. at 20-26.) At Step 4, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has past relevant work as a fast food worker, an inspector, a cashier/checker, and a bartender, but that she is unable to perform any of her past work. (R. at 26.) At Step 5, considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform. (R. at 27.)

         C. Standard of Review

         The District Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's final administrative decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). When reviewing a case under the Social Security Act, the Court “must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it ‘is supported by substantial evidence and was made pursuant to proper legal standards.'” Rabbers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 582 F.3d 647, 651 (6th Cir. at 2009) (quoting Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. at 2007)); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (“[t]he findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive . . . .”). Under this standard, “substantial evidence is defined as ‘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, 486 F.3d at 241 (quoting Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994)). In deciding whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision, the court does “not try the case de novo, resolve conflicts in evidence or decide questions of credibility.” Bass v. McMahon, 499 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 2007); Rogers, 486 F.3d at 247 ...


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