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Millsap v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

January 29, 2018

REBECKA LEE MILLSAP, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          John Corbett O'Meara District Judge.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO DENY PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DE 15) and GRANT DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DE 20)

          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 15), GRANT Defendant's motion for summary judgment (DE 20), and AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision.

         II. REPORT

         Plaintiff, Rebecka Millsap, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying her applications for disability insurance (DI) and supplemental security income (SSI) benefits. This matter is before the Undersigned for a Report and Recommendation on Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (DE 15), the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment (DE 20), Plaintiff's response (DE 21), and the administrative record (DE 12).

         A. Background and Administrative History

         Plaintiff alleges her disability began on July 2, 2013. (R. at 174, 209.) She lists “back injury” and “degenerative dis[c] disorder” as the conditions that limit her ability to work. (R. at 177.) Her applications for DIB and SSI were denied on October 8, 2013. (R. at 148-155, 70-99.)

         Plaintiff requested a hearing by an ALJ. (R. at 102-104.) ALJ Stephen Marchioro held a hearing on May 15, 2015. (R. at 29-69.) On September 2, 2015, ALJ Marchioro determined that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (R. at 11-28.) On August 21, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (R. at 1-10.) Thus, ALJ Marchioro's decision became the Commissioner's final decision.

         Plaintiff timely commenced the instant action on October 6, 2016. (DE 1.)

         B. Plaintiff's Medical History

         The administrative record contains approximately 200 pages of medical records, of which Exhibits 1F through 5F were available to the ALJ. (R. at 28, 231-412.) Among these are the February 16, 2015 notes from David Gast, M.D. (R. at 397-398.) Dr. Gast's April 8, 2015 physical RFC assessment (R. at 413-417 [Ex. 6F]) and Dr. Gast's office treatment records dated August 2013 through April 2015 (R. at 418-437 [Ex. 7F]) were available to the Appeals Council. (R. at 5-6.) These will be discussed in detail, as necessary, below.

         C. Hearing Testimony

         1. Plaintiff's Testimony

         Plaintiff testified at the May 15, 2015 hearing, at which time she was 35 years old. (R. at 34-53.) As Plaintiff is not expressly challenging the ALJ's credibility assessment in her instant appeal, the Court will forego further summary of Plaintiff's testimony here and will only refer to it as necessary below.

         2. Vocational Expert Testimony

         Vocational expert (VE) Susan Lyon testified at the hearing. Preliminarily, the ALJ examined Plaintiff regarding her work history so that the VE could classify Plaintiff's past work. (R. at 54-60.) Ms. Lyon then answered five (5) hypothetical questions, the details of which will be discussed, as necessary, below. (R. at 60-67.)

         D. The Administrative Decision

         On September 2, 2015, ALJ Marchioro issued his decision. (R. at 11-28.) At Step 1 of the sequential evaluation process, [1] the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 2, 2013, the alleged onset date. (R. at 17.) At Step 2, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairment: degenerative disc disease (DDD). At the same time, the ALJ considered Plaintiff's headaches “non-severe.” (R. at 17.) At Step 3, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments. (R. at ...


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