United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
Kent United States Magistrate Judge
brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),
seeking judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security Administration (Commissioner)
which denied her claim for disability insurance benefits
alleged a disability onset date of July 29, 2013. PageID.191.
She identified her disabling conditions as depression,
Epstein Barr virus, stomach pain, migraines, memory problems,
and foot and ankle pain after “achilles removed”.
PageID.203. Prior to applying for DIB and SSI, plaintiff
completed some college and had past employment as a dental
assistant and dental lab technician. PageID.48-49, 204. An
administrative law judge (ALJ) reviewed plaintiff's claim
de novo and entered a written decision denying
benefits on October 9, 2015. PageID.39-50. This decision,
which was later approved by the Appeals Council, has become
the final decision of the Commissioner and is now before the
Court for review.
Court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
typically focused on determining whether the
Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial
evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); McKnight v.
Sullivan, 927 F.2d 241 (6th Cir. 1990).
“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.” Cutlip v. Secretary of
Health & Human Services, 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir.
1994). A determination of substantiality of the evidence must
be based upon the record taken as a whole. Young v.
Secretary of Health & Human Services, 925 F.2d 146
(6th Cir. 1990).
scope of this review is limited to an examination of the
record only. This Court does not review the evidence de novo,
make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.
Brainard v. Secretary of Health & Human
Services, 889 F.2d 679, 681 (6th Cir. 1989). The fact
that the record also contains evidence which would have
supported a different conclusion does not undermine the
Commissioner's decision so long as there is substantial
support for that decision in the record. Willbanks v.
Secretary of Health & Human Services, 847 F.2d 301,
303 (6th Cir. 1988). Even if the reviewing court would
resolve the dispute differently, the Commissioner's
decision must stand if it is supported by substantial
evidence. Young, 925 F.2d at 147.
claimant must prove that he suffers from a disability in
order to be entitled to benefits. A disability is established
by showing that the claimant cannot engage in 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.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505; Abbott v.
Sullivan, 905 F.2d 918, 923 (6th Cir. 1990). In applying
the above standard, the Commissioner has developed a
The Social Security Act requires the Secretary to follow a
“five-step sequential process” for claims of
disability. First, plaintiff must demonstrate that she is not
currently engaged in “substantial gainful
activity” at the time she seeks disability benefits.
Second, plaintiff must show that she suffers from a
“severe impairment” in order to warrant a finding
of disability. A “severe impairment” is one which
“significantly limits . . . physical or mental ability
to do basic work activities.” Third, if plaintiff is
not performing substantial gainful activity, has a severe
impairment that is expected to last for at least twelve
months, and the impairment meets a listed impairment,
plaintiff is presumed to be disabled regardless of age,
education or work experience. Fourth, if the plaintiff's
impairment does not prevent her from doing her past relevant
work, plaintiff is not disabled. For the fifth and final
step, even if the plaintiff's impairment does prevent her
from doing her past relevant work, if other work exists in
the national economy that plaintiff can perform, plaintiff is
Heston v. Commissioner of Social Security, 245 F.3d
528, 534 (6th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted).
claimant bears the burden of proving the existence and
severity of limitations caused by her impairments and the
fact that she is precluded from performing her past relevant
work through step four. Jones v. Commissioner of Social
Security, 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003). However, at
step five of the inquiry, “the burden shifts to the
Commissioner to identify a significant number of jobs in the
economy that accommodate the claimant's residual
functional capacity (determined at step four) and vocational
profile.” Id. If it is determined that a
claimant is or is not disabled at any point in the evaluation
process, further review is not necessary. Mullis
v. Bowen, 861 F.2d 991, 993 (6th Cir. 1988).
claim failed at the fifth step of the evaluation. At the
first step, the ALJ found that plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of
July 29, 2013, and meets the insured status requirements of
the Social Security Act through December 31, 2018. PageID.41.
At the second step, the ALJ found that plaintiff had severe
impairments of: mood disorder; personality disorder/avoidant
personality disorder; major depressive disorder/dysthymic
disorder; generalized anxiety disorder; schizoid personality
disorder; attention deficit disorder; irritable bowel
syndrome; interstitial cystitis; Epstein Barr syndrome;
headaches; and scoliosis. PageID.41. At the third step, the
ALJ found that plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or equaled the
requirements of the Listing of Impairments in 20 C.F.R. Pt.
404, Subpt. P, App. 1. PageID.42.
decided at the fourth step that:
[C]laimant has the residual functional capacity to perform
light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except she is
able to lift and/or carry up to 20 pounds occasionally and up
to ten pounds frequently. She can sit for up to 6 hours total
and stand and/or walk for up to 4 hours total in and
eight-hour workday. She requires the option to alternate
between sitting and standing with sitting for up to 30
minutes then standing for up to 10 minutes before sitting
again[.] She can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, stoop,
and crouch. She can never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds,
kneel or crawl, but can frequently balance. The claimant can
have occasional exposure to temperature extremes, to
humidity, and to noise, such as that which is present in a
loud factory setting, and have occasional exposure to
hazards, including unprotected heights and dangerous moving
machinery. She can do no overhead reaching with ...