United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
DEBORAH L. HATTON, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
Terrence G. Berg United States District Judge.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT (DKT. 17, 19)
STEPHANIE DAWKINS DAVIS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Proceedings in this Court
December 27, 2016, plaintiff Deborah Hatton filed the instant
suit. (Dkt. 1). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and
Local Rule 72.1(b)(3), District Judge Terrence G. Berg
referred this matter to the undersigned for the purpose of
reviewing the Commissioner's unfavorable decision denying
plaintiff's claim for period of disability and disability
insurance benefits. (Dkt. 4). This matter is before the Court
on cross-motions for summary judgment. (Dkt. 17, 19).
filed the instant claim for period of disability and
disability insurance benefits on February 25, 2014. (Tr.
The claim was initially disapproved by the Commissioner on
May 12, 2014. (Id.). Plaintiff requested a hearing
and on December 8, 2015, plaintiff appeared with counsel
before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Timothy
C. Scallen, who considered the case de novo. (Id.).
In a decision dated January 6, 2016, the ALJ found that
plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr. 23). Plaintiff requested a
review of this decision. (Tr. 11). The ALJ's decision
became the final decision of the Commissioner when the
Appeals Council, on November 4, 2016, denied plaintiff's
request for review. (Tr. 1); Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 378 F.3d 541, 543-44 (6th Cir. 2004).
reasons set forth below, the undersigned
RECOMMENDS that plaintiff's motion for
summary judgment be DENIED, and that
defendant's motion for summary judgment be
GRANTED, and that the findings of the
Commissioner be AFFIRMED.
born in 1952, was 59 years of age on the alleged disability
onset date. (Tr. 21). Plaintiff has past relevant work as a
cleaner and auto body estimator. (Tr. 21). The ALJ applied
the five-step analysis and found at step one that plaintiff
had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since
September 1, 2012, the alleged onset date. (Tr. 17). At step
two, the ALJ found that plaintiff's hyperopia and
vitreous floaters were “severe” within the
meaning of the second sequential step. (Id.).
However, at step three, the ALJ found no evidence that
plaintiff's impairments either singly or in combination
met or medically equaled one of the listings in the
regulations. (Tr. 19).
the ALJ assessed plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) as follows:
After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all
exertional levels but with the following nonexertional
limitations: no climbing of ropes, ladders or scaffolds; no
exposure to unprotected heights and moving machinery; and no
work requiring fine visual acuity jobs.
(Tr. 19). At step four, the ALJ found that plaintiff was
unable to perform any past relevant work. (Tr. 21). At step
five, the ALJ denied plaintiff benefits because he found that
there were jobs that exist in significant numbers in the
national economy that plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 21).
Standard of Review
enacting the social security system, Congress created a
two-tiered system in which the administrative agency handles
claims, and the judiciary merely reviews the agency
determination for exceeding statutory authority or for being
arbitrary and capricious. Sullivan v. Zebley, 493
U.S. 521 (1990). The administrative process itself is
multifaceted in that a state agency makes an initial
determination that can be appealed first to the agency
itself, then to an ALJ, and finally to the Appeals Council.
Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137 (1987). If relief is
not found during this administrative review process, the
claimant may file an action in federal district court.
Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 537 (6th Cir. 1986).
Court has original jurisdiction to review the
Commissioner's final administrative decision pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Judicial review under this statute
is limited in that the court “must affirm the
Commissioner's conclusions absent a determination that
the Commissioner has failed to apply the correct legal
standard or has made findings of fact unsupported by
substantial evidence in the record.” Longworth v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 402 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir.
2005); Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d
525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997). In deciding whether substantial
evidence supports the ALJ's decision, “we do not
try the case de novo, resolve conflicts in evidence, or
decide questions of credibility.” Bass v.
McMahon, 499 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 2007); Garner
v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984). “It
is of course for the ALJ, and not the reviewing court, to
evaluate the credibility of witnesses, including that of the
claimant.” Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
486 F.3d 234, 247 (6th Cir. 2007); Jones v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 475 (6th Cir. 2003) (an
“ALJ is not required to accept a claimant's
subjective complaints and may . . . consider the credibility
of a claimant when making a determination of
disability.”); Cruse v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 502 F.3d 532, 542 (6th Cir. 2007) (the
“ALJ's credibility determinations about the
claimant are to be given great weight, particularly since the
ALJ is charged with observing the claimant's demeanor and
credibility.”) (quotation marks omitted);
Walters, 127 F.3d at 531 (“Discounting
credibility to a certain degree is appropriate where an ALJ
finds contradictions among medical reports, claimant's
testimony, and other evidence.”). “However, the
ALJ is not free to make credibility determinations based
solely upon an ‘intangible or intuitive notion about an
individual's credibility.'” Rogers,
486 F.3d at 247, quoting Soc. Sec. Rul. 96-7p, 1996 WL
supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's
findings of fact are conclusive. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Therefore, this Court may not reverse the Commissioner's
decision merely because it disagrees or because “there
exists in the record substantial evidence to support a
different conclusion.” McClanahan v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 474 F.3d 830, 833 (6th Cir. 2006); Mullen
v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986) (en
banc). Substantial evidence is “more than a
scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance; it is
such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Rogers, 486
F.3d at 241; Jones, 336 F.3d at 475. “The
substantial evidence standard presupposes that there is a
‘zone of choice' within which the Commissioner may
proceed without interference from the courts.”
Felisky v. Bowen, 35 F.3d 1027, 1035 (6th Cir. 1994)
(citations omitted), citing, Mullen, 800 F.2d at
scope of this Court's review is limited to an examination
of the record only. Bass, 499 F.3d at 512-13;
Foster v. Halter, 279 F.3d 348, 357 (6th Cir. 2001).
When reviewing the Commissioner's factual findings for
substantial evidence, a reviewing court must consider the
evidence in the record as a whole, including that evidence
which might subtract from its weight. Wyatt v. Sec'y
of Health & Human Servs., 974 F.2d 680, 683 (6th
Cir. 1992). “Both the court of appeals and the district
court may look to any evidence in the record, regardless of
whether it has been cited by the Appeals Council.”
Heston v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 245 F.3d 528, 535
(6th Cir. 2001). There is no requirement, however, that
either the ALJ or the reviewing court must discuss every
piece of evidence in the administrative record. Kornecky
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 167 Fed.Appx. 496, 508 (6th
Cir. 2006) (“[a]n ALJ can consider all the ...