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Watson v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 2, 2018

STEPHANIE WATSON, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO GRANT PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DE 12), DENY DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DE 14) and REMAND THIS MATTER TO THE COMMISSIONER

          ANTHONY P. PATTI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. RECOMMENDATION:

         For the reasons that follow, it is RECOMMENDED that the Court GRANT Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (DE 12), DENY Defendant's motion for summary judgment (DE 14), and REMAND this matter to the Commissioner for proceedings consistent with this recommendation.

         II. REPORT

         Plaintiff, Stephanie Watson, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) for review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying her applications for disability insurance (DI) and supplemental security income (SSI) benefits. This matter is before the United States Magistrate Judge for a Report and Recommendation on Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (DE 12), the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment (DE 14), Plaintiff's reply (DE 15) and the administrative record (DE 9).

         A. Background and Administrative History

         Plaintiff alleges her disability began on March 30, 2012, at the age of 53. (R. at 201.) She lists several conditions (right shoulder, neck, back, both knees, right foot, and jaw) that limit her ability to work. (R. at 227.) Her applications for DI and SSI were denied in September 2013. (R. at 71-92.) Her request for reconsideration was denied in November 2013. (R. at 133-134, 93-122.)

         Plaintiff requested a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (R. at 147-148.) ALJ Elving L. Torres held a hearing, and, on May 13, 2015, determined that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (R. at 22-70.) On October 12, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (R. at 1-6, 12-13.) Thus, ALJ Torres's decision became the Commissioner's final decision.

         Plaintiff timely commenced the instant action on December 14, 2016. (DE 1.)

         B. Plaintiff's Medical History

         The administrative record contains approximately 787 pages of medical records, of which Exhibits 1F through 27F were available to the ALJ at the time of the May 13, 2015 decision. (R. at 41, 318-1104.) These records will be discussed in detail, as necessary, below.[1]

         C. Hearing Testimony

         Plaintiff testified at the April 2, 2015 hearing, when she was just shy of 57 years old. (R. at 49-67.) As Plaintiff is not expressly challenging the ALJ's credibility assessment in the instant appeal, the Court will refer to Plaintiff's testimony as necessary below. Vocational expert (VE) Teresa Manning testified at the hearing, providing answers to two hypotheticals, one of which involved “no more than frequent gross and fine manipulation with the right dominant upper extremity, ” and another which involved the same limitation on an occasional basis. (R. at 67-69 (emphasis added), 188-193.)

         D. The Administrative Decision

         On May 13, 2015, ALJ Torres issued a decision. (R. at 22-41.) At Step 1 of the sequential evaluation process, [2] the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 30, 2012, the alleged onset date. (R. at 27-28.) At Step 2, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease (DDD) of the cervical spine; status-post remote lumbar laminectomy with residual DDD; thoracic spine spondylosis with multilevel disc bulges; and status-post failed arthroscopies of the right shoulder, including fixation screw and residual adhesive capsulitis, and osteochondral defect localized in the right shoulder. (R. at 28-30.) At Step 3, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of ...


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