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Gonzales v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

February 6, 2018

MICHAEL GONZALES, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Arthur J. Tarnow District Judge.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          MONA K. MAJZOUB UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Michael Gonzales seeks judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's determination that he is not entitled to benefits under the Social Security Act. (Docket no. 1.) Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 13) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 14). This matter has been referred to the undersigned for determination of all non-dispositive motions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and issuance of a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and (C). (Docket no. 4.) Having reviewed the pleadings, the Court 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. 13) be GRANTED, that Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 14) be DENIED, and that the case be remanded to the Commissioner under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff applied for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) as well as Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), alleging that he has been disabled since October 20, 2013. (TR 20.) The Social Security Administration initially denied Plaintiff's claims on March 4, 2014. (Id.) On November 23, 2015, Plaintiff appeared with a representative and testified at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Virginia Trzaskoma Herring. (TR 35-91.) On December 10, 2015, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on Plaintiff's claims. (TR 17-34.) Plaintiff requested a review of the ALJ's decision with the Appeals Council, which was denied on October 21, 2016. (TR 1-3.) On December 14, 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. 13; docket no. 14.)

         III. HEARING TESTIMONY AND MEDICAL EVIDENCE

         Plaintiff sets forth a brief procedural history of this matter as well as a short summary of his medical issues. (Docket no. 13, pp. 6-12.) In addition, the ALJ summarized Plaintiff's medical record (TR 24-28), and Defendant referred to the evidence of record throughout its summary judgment motion (see generally docket no. 14). 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 determined that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2018 and did not engage in substantial gainful activity since October 20, 2013, the alleged onset date. (TR 22.) In addition, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: “degenerative disk disease of the lumbar spine with moderate central canal stenosis and an annular disc bulge at ¶ 4-5 with bilateral neuroforaminal stenosis with left being worse than right and mild to moderate bilateral foraminal stenosis at ¶ 5-S1 with annular disc bulge; moderate degenerative joint disease of the medial compartment of both knees; and status-post a remote (2010) non-displaced fracture of left proximal tibial metaphysis, medial meniscal tear with a medial collateral ligament strain.” (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. (TR 23.) In addition, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), subject to the following limitations:

▪ Plaintiff can lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently;
▪ Plaintiff can sit up to six hours in an eight-hour workday;
▪ Plaintiff can stand and walk up to six hours, each, in an ...

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