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Walker v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

January 16, 2018

KRISTEN M. WALKER, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          NANCY G. EDMUNDS MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          MONA K. MAJZOUB UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Kristen M. Walker seeks judicial review of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's determination that she is not entitled to social security benefits for her physical and mental impairments under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Docket no. 1.) Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 15) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 17). Plaintiff also submitted a reply brief in support of her Motion for Summary Judgment. (Docket no. 18.) The motions have been referred to the undersigned for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). (Docket no. 4.) The Court has reviewed the pleadings, dispenses with a hearing pursuant to Eastern District of Michigan Local Rule 7.1(f)(2), and issues this Report and Recommendation.

         I.RECOMMENDATION

         For the reasons that follow, it is recommended that Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 15) be GRANTED IN PART and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 17) be DENIED. It is further recommended that this matter be remanded for proper consideration of Plaintiff's degenerative disc disease and for proper consideration of Dr. Hart's opinion in accordance with the treating physician rule.

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff protectively filed an application for supplemental security income on April 8, 2013, alleging that she has been disabled since April 1, 2012, due to conversion disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. (TR 201-06, 233, 237.) The Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's claims on August 8, 2013, and Plaintiff requested a de novo hearing. (TR 60-73, 78.) On August 20, 2015, Plaintiff appeared with a representative and testified at the hearing before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) B. Lloyd Blair. (TR 45-59.) In a September 10, 2015 decision, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform a limited range of light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b) and was not entitled to benefits because she was capable of performing a significant number of jobs in the national economy. (TR 20-36.) The Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's decision (TR 1-7), and Plaintiff commenced this action for judicial review. The parties then filed cross motions for summary judgment, which are currently before the Court.

         III. HEARING TESTIMONY AND MEDICAL EVIDENCE

         Plaintiff (docket no. 15 at 5-16) and the ALJ (TR 22-23, 26-34, 35) have set forth detailed, factual summaries of Plaintiff's medical record and the hearing testimony. Defendant adopts the ALJ's recitation of the facts. (Docket no. 17 at 5.) 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 Report and Recommendation.

         IV. ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE'S DETERMINATION

         The ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the application date of April 8, 2013, and that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: history of malignant neoplasm of the brain, glioma, seizure/pseudoseizures, major depressive disorder, mood disorder, PTSD, opioid dependency, and benzodiazepine dependency. (TR 22.) The ALJ also found that Plaintiff's thyroid conditions, degenerative disc disease, and left medial malleolar fracture were non-severe impairments. (TR 22-23.) Additionally, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal the severity of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (TR 23-25.) The ALJ then found that Plaintiff had the following RFC:

[C]laimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) where the claimant can lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally, and 10 pounds frequently, can sit up to six hours of an eight-hour workday, and can stand and/or walk up to six hours of an eight-hour workday. The claimant can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. The claimant can occasionally bend, twist, or turn at the waist or neck. The claimant is limited to simple unskilled work involving one, two, and three step instructions. The claimant must avoid jobs involving concentration on detailed or precision tasks, or multitasking. The claimant is limited to jobs that do not require teamwork, or working in close physical proximity of coworkers. The claimant is limited to work with minimal contact and directions from a supervisor, and work with only brief and superficial contact with the public. The claimant must be able to work at a flexible pace with no production quotas mandating a specific number of pieces per hour or an up-line or down-line coworker depending upon the claimant's productivity.

(TR 25-34.) Subsequently, in reliance on the vocational expert's (VE's) testimony, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was capable of performing a significant number of jobs in the national economy. (TR 35-36.) Therefore, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act at any time since April 8, 2013, the date the application was filed. (TR 20, 36.)

         V. LAW AND ANALYSIS

         A. ...


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