United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
Susan M. Stachnik, Plaintiff,
Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
Honorable Robert J. Jonker
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
PHILLIP J. GREEN United States Magistrate Judge
a social security action brought under 42 U.S.C. §§
405(g), 1383(c)(3), seeking review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security finding that plaintiff was
not entitled to disability insurance benefits (DIB) and
supplemental security income (SSI) benefits. On November 5
and 6, 2013, plaintiff filed her applications for DIB and SSI
benefits. She alleged a January 2, 2013, onset of disability.
(ECF No. 7-5, PageID.225-31, 234-40). Plaintiff's claims
were denied on initial review. (ECF No. 7-4, PageID.168-75).
On September 16, 2015, she received a hearing before an ALJ.
(ECF No. 7-2, PageID.72-121). On November 10, 2015, the ALJ
issued his decision finding that plaintiff was not disabled.
(Op., ECF No. 7-2, PageID.53-65). On November 4, 2016, the
Appeals Council denied review (ECF No. 7-2, PageID.40-43),
and the ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's
timely filed a complaint seeking judicial review of the
Commissioner's decision. Plaintiff argues that the
Commissioner's decision should be overturned on the
I. The ALJ's factual finding regarding plaintiff's
RFC is not supported by substantial evidence.
II. The ALJ failed to properly assess the factors listed in
20 C.F.R. § 404.1529(c)(3).
(Plf. Brief at 1, ECF No. 11, PageID.754). I recommend that
the Commissioner's decision be affirmed.
reviewing the grant or denial of social security benefits,
this court is to determine whether the Commissioner's
findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether
the Commissioner correctly applied the law. See Elam ex
rel. Golay v. Commissioner, 348 F.3d 124, 125 (6th Cir.
2003); Buxton v. Halter, 246 F.3d 762, 772 (6th Cir.
2001). Substantial evidence is defined as “‘such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.'” Heston v.
Commissioner, 245 F.3d 528, 534 (6th Cir. 2001) (quoting
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971));
see Rogers v. Commissioner, 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th
Cir. 2007). The scope of the court's review is limited.
Buxton, 246 F.3d at 772. The court does not review
the evidence de novo, resolve conflicts in evidence,
or make credibility determinations. See Ulman v.
Commissioner, 693 F.3d 709, 713 (6th Cir. 2012);
Walters v. Commissioner, 127 F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir.
1997). “The findings of the Commissioner of Social
Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive[.]” 42 U.S.C. §
405(g); see McClanahan v. Commissioner, 474 F.3d
830, 833 (6th Cir. 2006). “The findings of the
Commissioner are not subject to reversal merely because there
exists in the record substantial evidence to support a
different conclusion. . . . This is so because there is a
‘zone of choice' within which the Commissioner can
act without fear of court interference.”
Buxton, 246 F.3d at 772-73. “If supported by
substantial evidence, the [Commissioner's] determination
must stand regardless of whether the reviewing court would
resolve the issues of fact in dispute differently.”
Bogle v. Sullivan, 998 F.2d 342, 347 (6th Cir.
1993); see Gayheart v. Commissioner, 710 F.3d 365,
374 (6th Cir. 2013) (“A reviewing court will affirm the
Commissioner's decision if it is based on substantial
evidence, even if substantial evidence would have supported
the opposite conclusion.”). “[T]he
Commissioner's decision cannot be overturned if
substantial evidence, or even a preponderance of the evidence
supports the claimant's position, so long as substantial
evidence also supports the conclusion reached by the
ALJ.” Jones v. Commissioner, 336 F.3d 469, 477
(6th Cir. 2003); see Kyle v. Commissioner, 609 F.3d
847, 854 (6th Cir. 2010).
found that plaintiff met the disability insured requirements
of the Social Security Act through September 30, 2018. (Op.
at 3, ECF No. 7-2, PageID.55). Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity on or after January 2, 2013, the
alleged onset date. (Id.). Plaintiff had the
following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease
(cervical and lumbar), herniated discs, migraines, depression
and anxiety. (Id.). Plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled
the requirements of a listing impairment. (Id. at 4,
PageID.56). The ALJ found that plaintiff retained the
residual functional capacity (RFC) for a limited range of
light work with the following limitations:
She could lift and carry on occasion 20 pounds and lift and
carry frequently 10 pounds. She could sit for 6 hours in an
8-hour day and stand and/or walk for 6 hours in an 8-hour
day. She would be limited to frequent use of hand controls
bilaterally. She could frequently climb ramps or stairs, but
not climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds. She can frequently
balance, occasionally stoop, and occasionally crouch. She
cannot kneel or crawl. She could only be exposed to moderate
noise levels. She would be limited to occasional reaching
bilaterally; occasional reaching overhead bilaterally;
occasional bilateral gross manipulation; and occasional
bilateral fingering of objects. She would be limited to jobs
involving simple, routine tasks that could be learned after a
short demonstration or within 30 days.
(Op. at 6, PageID.58). The ALJ found that plaintiff's
testimony regarding her subjective limitations was not fully
credible. (Id. at 6-11, PageID.58-63). Plaintiff
could not perform any past relevant work. (Id. at
considered the testimony of a vocational expert (VE). In
response to a hypothetical question regarding a person of
plaintiff's age with her RFC, education, and work
experience, the VE testified that there were approximately
112, 000 jobs in the national economy that the hypothetical
person would be capable of performing. (ECF No.7-2,
PageID.107-12). The ALJ found that this ...