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
(DIB) and supplement security income (SSI).
alleged a disability onset date of July 19, 2013. PageID.321.
She identified her disabling conditions as: post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD); degenerative disc disease; severe
back pain; lumbar spine impairment; anxiety; depression;
right should impairment; and disassociative disorder.
PageID.310. Prior to applying for DIB and SSI, plaintiff
earned a GED and had past employment as a clerk/cashier,
factory worker, and home health aide. PageID.312.
Administrative law judge (ALJ) Kleber reviewed
plaintiff's claim de novo and entered a written
decision denying benefits on July 22, 2016. PageID.50-70.
reaching her determination, ALJ Kleber noted that plaintiff
filed applications for disability benefits in the past, with
her most recent filing on September 6, 2011. PageID.50. This
filing resulted in ALJ Lyman's decision denying benefits
on July 18, 2013. Id. ALJ Kleber addressed the
effect of this prior decision under Acquiescence Rulings
98-3(6) and 98-4(6), concluding that
I find new and material evidence concerning Ms. Grames'
residual functional capacity and therefore, am not bound by
the prior decision dated July 18, 2013 (ClA). I find that the
residual functional capacity requires modification due to
additional severe impairments. However, I find no new and
material evidence concerning Ms. Grames' past relevant
work and therefore, am bound by the prior decision as to
PageID.50-51. ALJ Kleber's July 22, 2016 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 and 416.905;
Abbott v. Sullivan, 905 F.2d 918, 923 (6th Cir.
1990). In applying the above standard, the Commissioner has
developed a five-step analysis:
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).
federal court's standard of review for SSI cases mirrors
the standard applied in social security disability
cases.” D'Angelo v. Commissioner of Social
Security, 475 F.Supp.2d 716, 719 (W.D. Mich. 2007).
“The proper inquiry in an application for SSI benefits
is whether the plaintiff was disabled on or after her
application date.” Casey v. Secretary of Health and
Human Services, 987 F.2d 1230, 1233 (6th Cir. 1993).
claim failed at the fifth step of the evaluation. At the
first step, ALJ Kleber found that plaintiff had not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date
of July 19, 2013, and met the insured status requirements of
the Social Security Act through December 31, 2016. PageID.53.