United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
JERAMIE J. KELLEY, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant,
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 his claim for disability insurance benefits
(DIB) and supplement security income (SSI).
alleged a disability onset date of March 9, 2012. PageID.369.
He identified his disabling conditions as compression
fracture of L4 vertebra, back injury, anxiety, carpel tunnel
syndrome and acid reflux. PageID.373. Prior to applying for
DIB and SSI, plaintiff completed one year of college and had
past employment as a roofer and material handler. PageID.61.
Plaintiff stated that he injured his back in an accident on
March 8, 2012, and that he later fractured his right distal
fibula. Plaintiff's Brief (ECF No. 12, PageID.1743). This
is the second decision from Administrative law judge (ALJ)
Guyton. On August 16, 2013, ALJ Guyton denied plaintiff's
claim. PageID.179-193. The Appeals Council remanded the case
for further proceedings on February 1, 2015. PageID.200-202.
On remand, ALJ Guyton reviewed plaintiff's claim de
novo and entered a written decision denying benefits on
July 7, 2015. PageID.51-63. 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
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, the ALJ found that plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of
March 9, 2012, and met the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through June 30, 2105. PageID.54. At the
second step, the ALJ found that plaintiff had severe
impairments of: cervical and lumbar degenerative disc
disease; L4 compression fracture; osteopenia; Ehlers Danlos
syndrome; affective and anxiety disorders; substance
addiction disorder - cannabis and alcohol abuse in remission;
and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
PageID.54. 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.55.
decided at the fourth step that:
[C]laimant claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and
416.967(a) except he can lift and carry ten pounds
occasionally and less than ten pounds frequently. He can
stand and walk for two hours and sit for six hours in an
eight-hour workday. He requires the use of a cane for
ambulation. With the upper extremities, he can handle and
finger frequently. He is limited to occasional balancing,
stooping, crawling, kneeling, and crouching. He can
occasionally climb ramps and stairs but never ladders, ropes,
and scaffolds. He should not be exposed to hazardous
machinery or unprotected heights. He is limited to unskilled
work which consists of simple, routine tasks; involving no
more than simple instructions and simple work-related
decisions, with few workplace changes. He can maintain
concentration for the two-hour segments needed to sustain
work. He can have no contact with the general public.
PageID.57. The ALJ also found that plaintiff is unable to
perform any past relevant work. PageID.61.
fifth step, the ALJ determined that plaintiff could perform a
significant number of unskilled jobs at the sedentary
exertional level in the national economy. PageID.62.
Specifically, the ALJ found that plaintiff could perform the
requirements of sedentary and unskilled occupations such as
inserter (125, 000 jobs nationwide), machine attendant (110,
000 jobs nationwide), and parts checker (90, 000 jobs
nationwide). PageID.62. Accordingly, the ALJ determined that
plaintiff has not been under a disability, as ...