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O'Leary-Bell v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

January 19, 2018

Kelly O'Leary-Bell, Plaintiff,
v.
Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          Patricia T. Morris, U.S. Magistrate Judge.

          ORDER ADOPTING IN PART REPORT & RECOMMENDATION [20]; OVERRULING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS [21]; GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [19]; DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [16]

          Arthur J. Tarnow, Senior United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Kelly O'Leary-Bell seeks judicial review of the decision of an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denying her application for disability benefits. Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [16] on May 30, 2017. Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [19] on June 15, 2017. On August 23, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation [20] (“R&R”) recommending that the Court grant Defendant's Motion and deny Plaintiff's Motion. Plaintiff filed Objections to the R&R [21] on September 6, 2017. Defendant filed its Response [22] on September 19, 2017.

         For the reasons stated below, the Court ADOPTS in part the R&R [20]. Plaintiff's Objections to the R&R [21] are OVERRULED. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [19] is GRANTED. Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [16] is DENIED.

         Factual Background

         The Magistrate Judge summarized the record as follows:

On September 24, 2013, O'Leary-Bell filed applications for DIB, alleging a disability onset date of May 24, 2012. (Tr. 132-45). The Commissioner denied her claim. (Tr. 70-84). O'Leary-Bell then requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), which occurred on July 16, 2015 before ALJ JoErin O'Leary. (Tr. 32-69). The ALJ's written decision, issued September 24, 2015, found O'Leary-Bell not disabled. (Tr. 15-31). On September 15, 2016, the Appeals Council denied review, (Tr. 1-7), and O'Leary-Bell filed for judicial review of that final decision on October 31, 2016. (Doc. 1) . . . .
D. ALJ Findings
Following the five-step sequential analysis, the ALJ found O'Leary-Bell not disabled under the Act. (Tr. 18-27). At Step One, the ALJ found that O'Leary-Bell last met the insured status requirements through December 31, 2017, and had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 24, 2012, her application date. (Tr. 20). At Step Two, the ALJ concluded that the following impairments qualified as severe: affective disorders, anxiety disorders, degenerative disc disorder, and obesity. (Id.). The ALJ also decided, however, that none of these met or medically equaled a listed impairment at Step Three. (Tr. 21-22) (emphasis added). Thereafter, the ALJ found that O'Leary-Bell had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work, except . . . .
At Step Four, the ALJ found O'Leary-Bell incapable of performing her past relevant work. (Tr. 26). But proceeding to Step Five, the ALJ determined that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that O'Leary-Bell can perform. (Tr. 26-27).
E. Administrative Record . . . .
2. Application Reports and Administrative Hearing
i. Function Report
O'Leary-Bell filled out a Function Report on October 14, 2013, which appears in the administrative record. (Tr. 190-202). Describing her conditions, she notes “[m]y illness makes it impossible for me to work. I have issues with [visibility], dizziness, drowsiness, and I have no control over my emotions. I cry all the time.” (Tr. 190). In a typical day, “I try to do the babies. I rest a lot and I have my . . . son to take care of.” (Tr. 191). As a result of her conditions, she could only sleep for approximately four hours. (Id.). They do not affect her ability to attend to personal care (e.g., dressing, bathing, shaving, using the toilet, etc.). (Id.).
Medication reduced her appetite, and she would “[u]sually eat sandwiches” on a “daily” basis. (Tr. 192). She accomplished “basic household chores” twice per week, though she required reminders. (Id.). To get around, she rode in a car, but she also specified that “I do not go outside. I do not want to see people.” (Tr. 193). Nor did she “like being alone” because she was “too anxious.” (Id.). She drove only when necessary. (Id.). She sometimes shopped online for thirty- to sixty-minute increments. (Id.). Despite her limitations, she retained the capacity to pay bills, count change, handle a savings account, and use a checkbook/money orders. (Id.).
Before her onset date, “I used to exercise. Now I watch TV and help my son with homework” every other day. (Tr. 194). “I can't walk or exercise due to dizziness and always being tired.” (Id.). She regularly attended doctor's appointments, but otherwise remained alone at home. (Id.). “I do not go anywhere.” (Tr. 195). Prompted to mark abilities with which she encountered difficulty, she marked only lifting. (Id.). She could walk for a mile before needing a minute's rest, but she had “difficulty focusing” and followed verbal instructions better than written instructions. (Id.). She handled neither stress nor changes in routine well. (Tr. 196). In her closing remarks, she provided: “I did not intend to be filing for [Social Security]. I only had a few years left and I could have returned. Instead I decided to leave my career ...

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