United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ANDY J. NORRIS, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
DISTRICT JUDGE ROBERT H. CLELAND
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON CROSS MOTIONS FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Docs. 14, 17)
Patricia T. Morris United States Magistrate Judge
Introduction and Procedural History
an action for judicial review of a final decision by the
Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff Andy
Norris's claim for disability benefits under the
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) program of
Title II, 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq., and
Supplemental Security Income Benefits (“SSI”)
under Title XVI, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383f. (Doc. 1).
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), E.D. Mich. LR
72.1(b)(3), and by Notice of Reference, this case was
referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge. (Doc. 4). The
matter is currently before the Court on cross-motions for
summary judgment. (Docs. 14, 17).
was born on October 25, 1963, making him 41 years old on the
alleged onset date of January 1, 2005. (Doc. 14 at ¶
316-17). He was last insured on June 30, 2009. (Tr. 58).
Plaintiff filed both a DIB and an SSI claim in February 2014
(Tr. 120-25, 126-32). Although the parties agree that
Plaintiff's DIB claim was denied on May 28, 2014, (Doc.
14 at ¶ 316); (Doc. 17 at ¶ 340, n.4); (Tr. 73-76),
the date on which Plaintiff's SSI claim was denied is
another matter. Based on Plaintiff's recitation of the
case's procedural history, he seems to believe the
initial denial of his SSI application fell on the same date
as that of his DIB application: May 28, 2014. (Doc. 14 at
¶ 316). He offers no citation to the record in support
of this contention; in fact, the record does not include any
evidence that an initial decision was ever rendered on his
SSI claim. Defendant, on the other hand, asserts that
Plaintiff's SSI claim was denied on April 8, 2014, (Doc.
17 at ¶ 339), and attaches as proof a copy of a Notice
of Disapproved Claim that does not appear in the
administrative record. (Doc. 17, Ex. A).
Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing on June 27, 2014,
(Tr. 77-78), and an administrative hearing on his DIB claim
was held on October 15, 2015, before ALJ Ena Weathers. (Tr.
32-57). On November 19, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision that
Plaintiff had not been disabled between his alleged onset
date and his date last insured-in other words, as both
parties agree, the ALJ ruled only on Plaintiff's DIB
claim. (Tr. 14-27). Plaintiff filed a timely request for
review of that decision, which the Appeals Council denied.
(Tr. 1-6). This action followed.
Standard of Review
district court has jurisdiction to review the
Commissioner's final administrative decision pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The district court's review is
restricted to determining whether the “Commissioner has
failed to apply the correct legal standard or has made
findings of fact unsupported by substantial evidence in the
record.” Sullivan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
595 F. App'x 502, 506 (6th Cir. 2014) (internal citations
omitted). 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 v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir.
2007) (internal quotations omitted).
Court must examine the administrative record as a whole, and
may consider any evidence in the record, regardless of
whether it has been cited by the ALJ. See Walker v.
Secretary of Health and Human Services, 884 F.2d 241,
245 (6th Cir. 1989). The Court will not “try the case
de novo, nor resolve conflicts in the evidence, nor decide
questions of credibility.” Cutlip v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir.
1994). If the Commissioner's decision is supported by
substantial evidence, “it must be affirmed even if the
reviewing court would decide the matter differently and even
if substantial evidence also supports the opposite
conclusion.” Id. at 286 (internal citations
Framework for Disability Determinations
the Act, “DIB and SSI are available only for those who
have a ‘disability.'” Colvin v.
Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007).
“Disability” means the inability
to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of
any medically determinable physical or mental impairment
which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted
or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not
less than [twelve] months.
42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A) (DIB); 20
C.F.R. § 416.905(a) (SSI). The Commissioner's
regulations provide that disability is to be determined
through the application of a five-step sequential analysis:
(i) At the first step, we consider your work activity, if
any. If you are doing substantial gainful activity, we will
find that you are not disabled. . . .
(ii) At the second step, we consider the medical severity of
your impairment(s). If you do not have a severe medically
determinable physical or mental impairment that meets the
duration requirement . . . or a combination of impairments
that is severe and meets the duration requirement, we will
find that you are not disabled. . . .
(iii) At the third step, we also consider the medical
severity of your impairment(s). If you have an impairment(s)
that meets or equals one of our listings in appendix 1 of
this subpart and meets the duration requirement, we will find
that you are disabled. . . .
(iv) At the fourth step, we consider our assessment of your
residual functional capacity and your past relevant work. If
you can still do your past relevant work, we will find that
you are not disabled. . . .
(v) At the fifth and last step, we consider our assessment of
your residual functional capacity and your age, education,
and work experience to see if you can make an adjustment to
other work. If you can make an adjustment to other work, we
will find that you are not disabled. If you cannot make an
adjustment to other work, we will find that you are disabled.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. See also Heston
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 245 F.3d 528, 534 (6th Cir.
2001). “Through step four, the claimant bears the
burden of proving the existence and severity of limitations
caused by [his or] her impairments and the fact that [he or]
she is precluded from performing her past relevant
work.” Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336
F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003). A claimant must establish a
medically determinable physical or mental impairment
(expected to last at least twelve months or result in death)
that rendered him unable to engage in substantial gainful
activity. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The burden transfers
to the Commissioner if the analysis reaches the fifth step
without a finding that the claimant is not disabled.
Combs v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 459 F.3d 640, 643
(6th Cir. 2006). At the fifth step, the Commissioner is
required to show that “other jobs in significant
numbers exist in the national economy that [the claimant]
could perform given her RFC [residual functional capacity]
and considering relevant vocational factors.”
Rogers, 486 F.3d at 241 (citing 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(a)(4)(v), (g)).
the five-step sequential analysis, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act between his original
alleged onset date of January 1, 2005, and his last insured
date of June 30, 2009. (Tr. 14-27). To begin, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff did not engage in substantial
gainful activity during the relevant period. (Tr. 19). Next,
the ALJ determined that through the date last insured,
Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: back, hip,
and leg pain; headache; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
(COPD); and obesity. (Tr. 20). The ALJ then concluded that
Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of any
listed impairment. (Tr. 20-21). As for Plaintiff's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”), the ALJ
concluded that through Plaintiff's date last insured, he
had the RFC
To perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except
never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; occasionally climb
ramps or stairs; and can occasionally stoop, crouch, and
crawl; the claimant can perform tasks without strict
production demands; avoid concentrated exposure to fumes,
gases, dusts, pollutants and vibration; and, the claimant
needs the ability to change from standing to seated position
or vice versa for 1-2 minutes every hour to two hours without
interference with work product.
(Tr. 21). Finally, the ALJ found that through the date last
insured, Plaintiff was capable of performing his past
relevant work as a pastor-and that, in the alternative, other
jobs existed in significant numbers in the national ...