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 his claim for disability insurance benefits
alleged a disability onset date of January 1, 2007.
PageID.244. Because plaintiff last met the insured status
requirements of the Social Security Act on March 31, 2012,
the relevant time period for this appeal is January 1, 2007
through March 31, 2012. PageID.744, 748. Plaintiff identified
his disabling conditions as: carpal tunnel; pain in the back,
knees, shoulders and arms; hearing aids in both ears; and
sleep apnea. PageID.256. Prior to applying for DIB, plaintiff
completed the 12th grade and had past employment as a core
maker in a factory. PageID.257.
claim was previously before this Court in McAfee v.
Commissioner, No. 1:14-cv-771 (W.D. Mich.)
(“McAfee I”). In McAfee I,
which involved a February 21, 2013 decision from
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Bruce, the Court noted that
“[a]s part of his decision, the ALJ [Bruce] gave
res judicata effect to a previous ALJ's decision
[by ALJ Butler] denying benefits on June 17, 2010, which
found that plaintiff was not disabled from the alleged onset
date of January 1, 2007 through June 17, 2010.”
McAfee I at PageID.806. Ultimately, the Court
reversed and remanded the case pursuant to sentence four of
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), because ALJ Bruce's decision did
not address plaintiff's subjective complaints in a
meaningful manner, i.e., the ALJ did not identify the
symptoms mentioned in plaintiff's Adult Functional
Report, address how those symptoms were disproportionate to
the objective medical evidence, or how the symptoms were
inconsistent with his activities of daily living.
Id. at PageID.815. The Court further stated that
“[o]n remand, the Commissioner is directed to
re-evaluate plaintiff's credibility with respect to the
pain in his shoulders, knees and hands.” Id.
present decision, entered on remand, ALJ Sampson recounted
the history of the case:
Pursuant to the District Court remand order, the Appeals
Council has directed the undersigned to reevaluate the
plaintiff's credibility with respect to the pain in his
shoulders, knees, and hands (Exhibits B9A, B10A). The
undersigned notes that there is evidence subsequent to the
prior June 17, 2010 decision, which supports severe
impairments of rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis of the
shoulders, and chondromalacia of the knees.
The claimant had previously filed a Title II application for
a period of disability and disability insurance benefits,
which was denied at the hearing level by Administrative Law
Judge Butler on June 17, 2010 (Exhibit B1A). There is no new
and material evidence upon which to base any disturbance of
that decision. As such, the principles of res
judicata dictate that the decision of Administrative Law
Judge Butler is final for the period from the claimant's
alleged onset date of January 1, 2007 through the decision
date of June 17, 2010.
Sampson reviewed plaintiff's claim de novo and
entered a written decision denying benefits on August 17,
2016. PageID.742-753. 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 ...