United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division
TIMOTHY P. GREELEY JUDGE
of 2012, plaintiff Sarah Ann Deiter filed an application for
Supplemental Security Income Benefits. (ECF No. 11-3,
PageID.110). Plaintiff alleges that she suffers from problems
associated with a thyroid nodule, family history of CAD,
elevated AST (SGOT), hematochezia, abdominal pain,
leukocytosis, tachycardia, sarcoidosis of the lung, Irritable
Bowel Syndrome (IBS), hilar adenopathy, arthralgia, lumbar
pain, intertrigo, elevated liver function tests,
fibromyalgia, depression, vitamin D deficiency, anxiety,
hyperlipidemia, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, diabetes,
sleep apnea, manic episode without psychosis, insomnia,
fatigue, and an ovarian cyst. Plaintiff asserts that these
impairments cause her disability. Plaintiff's application
was denied initially and plaintiff requested an
administrative hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ). (ECF No. 116-118). ALJ Patrick Toal, held a hearing on
November 13, 2014. (ECF No. 11-2, PageID.61-95).
was represented by counsel at the hearing. Plaintiff and
vocational expert Emily Veith testified. Plaintiff was 40
years old at the time of the hearing. (PageID.65). Plaintiff
lived with her two daughters, grandson, and her significant
other. (PageID.67). She has a driver's license, but does
not drive often. (PageID.68). Plaintiff can maintain her
hygiene and prepare meals. (PageID.70-71). Most days,
plaintiff can perform household chores such as washing
dishes, dusting, sweeping, mopping, and laundry. (PageID.72).
Plaintiff has trouble repetitively folding the laundry due to
the required arm movement. Plaintiff is able to shop. During
the day she listened to music and tries to do housework, but
nothing really gets accomplished. (PageID.73). Plaintiff
reads a book or does a crossword puzzles but has problems
staying focused. (PageID.73-74). She takes care of her dogs.
(PageID.78). Plaintiff has taken care of her grandson when he
was younger, but cannot handle him anymore. (PageID.79).
Plaintiff has trouble finishing chores due to pain from
Fibromyalgia. (PageID.82). Plaintiff states that for one half
a month she cannot perform any activities. (PageID.83).
Plaintiff indicated that she was suffering from severe
stomach and upper abdomen pain. (PageID.92-93). Prior testing
was negative and Plaintiff was awaiting the results of her
recent colonoscopy. (PageID.93-94). Plaintiff stated that she
experienced numbness, weakness, and tingling in her limbs.
gets some relief from Klonopin, Cymbalta, amitriptyline, and
Restoril. (PageID.76-77). Plaintiff uses a C-PAP, but not as
often as she should. (PageID.78). She tries to take her
doctor's advice and walk a little and stretch each day.
(PageID.80). Plaintiff saw a rheumatologist who stated that
there was nothing that could be done because she suffered
with severe fibromyalgia and could not take any of the
medications. Plaintiff's physician prescribed Cymbalta
and narcotic pain medication. (PageID.87).
vocational expert Emily Veith testified that an individual
with no work experience, who is unable to lift or carry more
than 10 pounds frequently, 20 pounds occasionally, unable to
stand or walk more than 6 hours, climb ladders, ropes, and
scaffolds, crawl more than occasionally, climb stairs, kneel,
crouch or crawl more than frequently, maintain attention and
concentration to perform detailed tasks (limited to simple,
routine, repetitive, low stress tasks with few job changes),
limited problem solving or decision making, and unable to
have more than occasional interaction with coworkers and
supervisors, and no contact with the public could perform
jobs in the Michigan economy. (PageID.88-89). Vocational
expert Veith testified that a person with those limitations
could work as a housekeeper (approximately 9, 500 jobs in
Michigan, 450, 000 jobs nationally), shirt presser (780 jobs
in Michigan, 51, 000 jobs nationally), or hand packer (4, 000
jobs in Michigan, and 200, 000 jobs nationally).
(PageID89-90). However, if that individual is limited to
occasional use of the bilateral upper extremities for
grasping, fingering and reaching overhead there would be no
jobs that the individual would be able to perform.
found that plaintiff could perform jobs that existed in
significant numbers in the national economy given
plaintiff's residual functional capacity (RFC) and
therefore concluded that plaintiff was not under a
“disability” under the Social Security Act (20
C.F.R. § 416.920(g)). The ALJ's decision became the
agency's final decision when the Appeals Council denied
plaintiff's request for review. Plaintiff now seeks
judicial review of the agency's final decision denying
her request for disability benefits. Plaintiff then filed
of the ALJ's decision is limited to whether the ALJ
applied the correct legal standards and whether the findings
of the ALJ are supported by substantial evidence.”
Winslow v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 566 Fed.
App'x 418, 420 (6th Cir. 2014) (quoting Blakley v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 581 F.3d 399, 405 (6th Cir.
2009)); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The
findings of the ALJ are conclusive if they are supported by
substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial
evidence is defined as more than a mere scintilla of evidence
but “such relevant evidence that a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Jones v. Sec'y, Health & Human Servs., 945
F.2d 1365, 1369 (6th Cir. 1991). This Court is not permitted
to try the case de novo, nor resolve conflicts in
the evidence and cannot decide questions of credibility.
Brainard v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.,
889 F.2d 679, 681 (6th Cir. 1989); see Jones v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 475 (6th Cir.
2003) (noting the ALJ's decision cannot be overturned if
sufficient evidence supports the decision regardless of
whether evidence also supports a contradictory conclusion).
This Court is required to examine the administrative record
as a whole and affirm the Commissioner's decision if it
is supported by substantial evidence, even if this Court
would have decided the matter differently. See Kinsella
v. Schwikers, 708 F.2d 1058, 1059 (6th Cir. 1983);
see also Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th
Cir. 1986) (holding that the court must affirm a Commissioner
even if substantial evidence would support the opposite
must employ a five-step sequential analysis to determine if
plaintiff is under a disability as defined by the Social
Security Act. Warner v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 375
F.3d 387, 390 (6th Cir. 2004). If the ALJ determines
plaintiff is or is not disabled under a step, the analysis
ceases and plaintiff is declared as such. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a). Steps four and five use the residual functional
capacity assessment in evaluating the claim. Id. The
ALJ determined that plaintiff was not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since her June 27, 2012, application date,
and that plaintiff had the severe impairments of
fibromyalgia, hypertension, sarcoidosis, obesity, an
affective disorder, an anxiety disorder, and a personality
disorder. The ALJ noted that plaintiff has controlled
diabetes, and non-severe impairments of the back, dental
issues, thyroid nodule, hyperlipidemia, gastrointestinal
issues, and sleep disorders. The ALJ found that
plaintiffs' impairments did not meet or medically equal
the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C. F. R.
part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. The ALJ determined that
plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to
perform light work with additional limitations of: crawling,
climbing ladders, ropes and scaffolds more than occasionally,
stooping, kneeling, crouching or climbing ramps or stairs
more than frequently, limited to simple, routine, repetitive
and low stress tasks with few job changes and limited problem
solving or decision making with no more than occasional
interaction with coworkers and supervisors, with no public
contact. The ALJ found that plaintiff could perform unskilled
light duty jobs such as a housekeeper (approximately 9, 500
jobs in Michigan, 450, 000 jobs nationally), shirt presser
(780 jobs in Michigan, 51, 000 jobs nationally), or hand
packager (4, 000 jobs in Michigan, and 200, 000 jobs
nationally). This Court must affirm the ALJ's findings if
sufficient evidence supports the decision even if evidence
supports an alternative conclusion.
argues that the ALJ erred by granting little weight to
treating physician Dr. Mary Myrick, some weight to the
treating pulmonologist Dr. Ryan Hadley, and great weight to
the State medical reviewer Dr. Joe DeLoach. Additionally,
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ improperly evaluated her
credibility. Plaintiff requests a remand to the Appeals
Council for consideration of new material evidence.
the regulations, an ALJ must weigh all medical opinions
regardless of its source. 20 C.F.R. § 1527(c). The
following factors should be considered when determining what
weight to afford a medical opinion: “the length of the
treatment relationship and the frequency of examination, the
nature and extent of the treatment relationship,
supportability of the opinion, consistency of the opinion
with the record as a whole, and the specialization of the
treating source.” Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 378 F.3d 541, 544 (6th Cir. 2004) (citing 20
C.F.R. § 1527(c)).
affords a treating physician's opinion controlling weight
when the evidence and findings are consistent with the other
substantial evidence on record. 20 C.F.R. § 1527(c)(2);
see Miller . Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 815 F.3d 825,
836-837 (6th Cir. 2016). (noting the weight assigned must
account for the (in)consistency “among the examining
sources and the record as a whole” and also consider
the factors under 20 C.F.R. § 1527). Only when the ALJ
does not afford great weight to a treating source's
opinion is the ALJ required to apply and conduct an analysis
of the factors under (c)(2)(i) and (c)(2)(ii), and (c)(3)
through (c)(6). Id. Moreover, an ALJ is not required
to rely on medical opinions concluding that a person is, or
is not, disabled since that is an issue reserved to the
Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. § 1527(d).
a procedural requirement, the ALJ must also provide
‘good reasons' for discounting the weight to be
given to a treating source's opinion.” Edwards
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 636 Fed.Appx. 645, 649 (6th
Cir. 2016) (citing Gayheart v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 710 F.3d 365, 376 (6th Cir. 2013)). These reasons
must be supported by the evidence and be noted with
specificity “to ensure that the rule is applied and to
permit meaningful review.” Id. (citing
Gayheart, 710 F.3d at 376).
addition, “[s]tate agency medical consultants are
considered experts and their opinions may be entitled to
greater weight if their opinions are supported by the
evidence.” Hoskins v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
106 Fed. App'x 412, 415 (6th Cir. 2004); see also
Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 245 n.4
(6th Cir. 2007) (quoting SSR 96-6P) (“In appropriate
circumstances, opinions from State agency medical and
psychological consultants . . . may be entitled to greater
weight than the opinions of treating or examining
sources.”). Where the ALJ provides “good
reasons” for discounting a treating physician's
opinion, he was not required to afford less weight to the
state agency source's opinions as long as it was
supported by the evidence of record. See Helm v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 405 Fed. App'x 997, 1002
(6th Cir. 2011).
decision, the ALJ provided the following reasons for
affording weight to the opinions of Dr. Myrick, Dr. ...