United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
SUZANNE M. NATTRESS, Plaintiff
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendants.
V. Parker United States District Judge
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT (Dkt. 11, 13)
Stephanie Dawkins Davis United State Magistrate Judge
Proceedings in this Court
November 9, 2016, plaintiff filed the instant suit seeking
judicial review of the Commissioner's unfavorable
decision disallowing benefits. (Dkt. 1). Pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 72.1(b)(3), this
matter was referred to the undersigned for the purpose of
reviewing the Commissioner's decision denying
plaintiff's claim disability benefits. (Dkt. 2). This
matter is before the Court on cross-motions for summary
judgment. (Dkt. 11, 13). Plaintiff also filed a reply in
support of her motion. (Dkt. 14).
filed the instant claim for supplemental security income on
October 23, 2013, alleging that she became disabled on April
1, 1998. (Tr. 13). The claims were initially disapproved by
the Commissioner on February 25, 2014. Id. Plaintiff
requested a hearing and on July 28, 2015, plaintiff appeared
with counsel before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Martha M.
Gasparovich, who considered the case de novo. (Tr. 31-63). In
a decision dated September 9, 2015, the ALJ found that
plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr. 10-27). Plaintiff requested
a review of this decision and on September 9, 2016, the
ALJ's decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner when, after the review of additional exhibits,
Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review.
(Tr. 1-6); 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, that
defendant's motion for summary judgment be
GRANTED, and that the findings of the
was born in 1976 and was 37 years old on the date the
disability application was filed. (Tr. 25). Plaintiff has no
past relevant work. Id. The ALJ applied the
five-step disability analysis to plaintiff's claim and
found at step one that plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the application date. (Tr.
15). At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff's history
of psuedotumor cerebri, status-post thoracotomy, status-post
acute respiratory failure, asthmatic bronchitis, diabetes
mellitus, type II, osteoarthritis - bilateral knees, morbid
obesity, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and
history of opiate dependence were “severe” within
the meaning of the second sequential step. (Tr. 15). At step
three, the ALJ found no evidence that plaintiff's
combination of impairments met or equaled one of the listings
in the regulations. (Tr. 15-16). At step four, the ALJ found
that plaintiff had no past relevant work. (Tr. 25). The ALJ
concluded that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
to perform a limited range of light work as follows:
After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that
the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform
light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except that she is
unable to stand and walk more than four hours in an
eight-hour workday; sitting would be unlimited; could lift no
more than 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently;
could only stoop, climb, balance, crouch, squat, crawl, or
kneel occasionally; must avoid all hazards such as moving
machinery and unprotected heights; would need a clean air
environment free from concentrated levels of dust, fumes,
gases, chemicals, and other airborne irritants; would be
limited to simple, routine, one to three step tasks in a low
stress environment defined as no quick decision making and no
quick judgment required on the job; no interaction with the
public and only occasional interaction with supervisors or
co-workers; and would be unable to perform jobs that are fast
pace, high production, or frequent changes in task
expectations or locations.
(Tr. 18). At step five, the ALJ denied plaintiff benefits
because plaintiff could perform a significant number of jobs
available in the national economy. (Tr. 26-27).
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 ...