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Lopez v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

January 29, 2018

MARTHA JOSEFINA LOPEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [17] AND DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [18]

          MONA K. MAJZOUB UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Plaintiff Martha Lopez 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. 17) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 18). 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. 16.) 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 January 31, 2012, Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income, alleging that she had been disabled since January 4, 2012. (TR 93.) The Social Security Administration initially denied Plaintiff's claims, and that finding was upheld in an Unfavorable Decision dated May 17, 2013. (TR 108.) On August 7, 2014, the Appeals Council remanded the case for “further evaluation of the medical opinion evidence” and “further consideration to the claimant's maximum residual functional capacity during the entire period at issue. (TR 127-28.) On March 12, 2015, Plaintiff appeared with a representative and testified at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Ena Weathers. (TR 33-59.) On April 16, 2015, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on Plaintiff's claims. (TR 12-24.) Plaintiff requested a review of the ALJ's decision with the Appeals Council, which was denied on December 1, 2016. (TR 1.) On January 26, 2017, Plaintiff commenced this action for judicial review, and the parties filed cross motions for summary judgment, which are currently before the Court. (Docket no. 17; docket no. 18.)

         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. 17, pp. 10-14.) Defendant (docket no. 18, pp. 5-9.) and the ALJ (TR 16-22) also summarized Plaintiff's medical records. 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 January 4, 2012, the alleged onset date. (TR 15.) In addition, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: “carpal tunnel syndrome, type-2 diabetes, diabetic neuropathy, osteoarthritis of the right knee, lumbar spine pain disorder, [and] depressive disorder.” (Id.) 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 light work as defined by 20 CFR 404.1567(b) with the following exceptions:

• Unable to climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds.
• Can occasionally stoop, crouch, crawl and climb ramps and stairs.
• Can perform handling and fine fingering on a frequent (not constant) basis.
• Requires simple, routine, non-tandem work tasks without strict production demands.
• Limited to only occasional interaction with coworkers and the ...

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