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Thayer v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

January 16, 2018

REBECCA L. THAYER, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [16] AND GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [17]

          Mona K. Majzoub United States Magistrate Judge

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Plaintiff Rebecca L. Thayer seeks judicial review of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's determination that she is not entitled to social security benefits. (Docket no. 1.) Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 16) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 17). 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).

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On March 11, 2014, Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income, alleging that she had been disabled since February 8, 2012. (TR 18.) The Social Security Administration initially denied Plaintiff's claims on May 28, 2014. (Id.) On October 5, 2015, Plaintiff appeared with a representative and testified at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Donald G. D'Amato. (Id.) On November 23, 2015, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on Plaintiff's claims. (TR 18-30.) Plaintiff requested a review of the ALJ's decision with the Appeals Council, which was denied on September 16, 2016. (TR 1.) On November 11, 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. 16; docket no. 17.)

         II. HEARING TESTIMONY AND MEDICAL EVIDENCE

         Plaintiff sets forth a brief procedural history of this matter as well as a short summary of the relevant medical records. (Docket no. 16, pp. 5-7.) The ALJ summarized Plaintiff's medical records (TR 24-28), and Defendant relied on the ALJ's summary (docket no. 17, p. 4). 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.

         III. ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE'S DETERMINATION

         The ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful activity since February 8, 2012, the alleged onset date. (TR 20.) In addition, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: “Degenerative disc disease of the lumbar and cervical spines; degenerative arthritis of the knees; diabetes mellitus; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (“COPD”); obesity; post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”); and major depressive disorder.” (TR 21.) 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 perform sedentary work with the following exceptions:

• Plaintiff requires work that is unskilled with 1-, 2-, or 3-step instructions, and such work should be non-fast-rate production, which is defined as work that does not include conveyor belt or assembly line work;
• Plaintiff cannot function as a member of a discrete team and contact with co-workers and supervisors should be largely superficial; she can have no direct interactive contact with the public;
• Plaintiff requires a low-stress environment, defined as having only occasional changes in work setting;
• Plaintiff can lift and/or carry 5 pounds frequently and 10 pounds occasionally;
• Plaintiff can stand and/or walk with normal breaks for a total of 2 hours in an 8-hour workday, but she can do so for only 15 minutes at one time;
• Plaintiff can sit with normal breaks for a total of 6 hours in an 8-hour workday, but she can do so for only 30 ...

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