United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
SCOTT A. MOUTHAAN, 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
alleged a disability onset date of July 1, 2007, which he
amended to December 5, 2013. PageID.59, 257. Plaintiff
identified his disabling conditions as: chronic lead
poisoning, hormone cessation; lead poisoning; testicular
hypofunction; depression; hormone imbalance; fatigue;
hypogonadal-pituitary; hypodrenalism; thyroid disorder;
mineral deficiency; and toxic effect of metals. PageID.361.
Prior to applying for DIB, plaintiff completed the 12th grade
and tool and die apprentice trade school. PageID.262. He had
past employment as a machinist and store laborer. PageID.69,
263. An administrative law judge (ALJ) reviewed
plaintiff's claim de novo and entered a written
decision denying benefits on January 8, 2016. PageID.59-70.
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 “substant1ial 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 amended onset date of
December 5, 2013 and met the insured status requirements of
the Social Security Act through December 31, 2013. PageID.61.
Thus, the relevant time period under consideration in this
appeal is less than one month. At the second step, the ALJ
found that through the date last insured, Plaintiff had
severe impairments of: a history of elevated lead blood
levels/malabsorption syndrome; low testosterone levels;
chronic fatigue syndrome; anemia; obsessive compulsive
disorder; depression; personality disorder; cognitive
disorder; and obesity. PageID.61. At the third step, the ALJ
found that through the date last insured, 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.62.
decided at the fourth step that:
[T]hrough the date last insured, the claimant had the
residual functional capacity to perform less than the full
range of light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b). The
claimant is able to lift, carry, push, or pull 20 pounds
occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; sit for six hours in
an eight-hour workday; stand and/or walk for six hours in an
eight-hour workday; never climb ropes, ladders, or scaffolds;
occasionally climb ramps and stairs; frequently balance; and
has no limitations in stooping, kneeling, crouching, or
crawling. The claimant must avoid concentrated exposure to
respiratory irritants such as fumes, odors, dust, gases, or
poor ventilation. The claimant must have no contact with the
public; only occasional contact with coworkers and no tandem
tasks; only occasional contact with supervisors when tasks
are being performed as directed; and must have only
occasional changes in job duties or setting. The claimant is
able to perform simple, routine, repetitive tasks.
PageID.64. The ALJ also found that through the date last
insured, plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant
fifth step, the ALJ determined that, through the date last
insured, plaintiff could perform a significant number of
unskilled jobs at the light exertional level in the national
economy. PageID.69-70. Specifically, the ALJ found that
plaintiff could perform the requirements of light and
unskilled occupations in the national economy such as
assembler of small products (63, 000 jobs), mail clerk (54,
000 jobs), and packing line worker (57, 000 jobs).
PageID.69-70. Accordingly, the ALJ determined that plaintiff
has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social
Security Act, from December 5, 2013 (the amended alleged
onset date) through December 31, 2013 (the date last