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Daniels v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 29, 2018

KENNETH DANIELS, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Dkt. 11, 17)

          Stephanie Dawkins Davis, United States Magistrate Judge.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         A. Proceedings in this Court

         On October 25, 2016, plaintiff filed the instant suit seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision disallowing social security disability benefits. (Dkt. 1). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 72.1(b)(3), District Judge Thomas L. Ludington referred this matter to the undersigned magistrate judge for the purpose of reviewing the Commissioner's decision denying plaintiff's claims. (Dkt. 2). On February 2, 2017, the parties filed a notice of consent to this Magistrate Judge's authority, which was signed by Judge Ludington on February 6, 2017. (Dkt. 13, 14). The matter is before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment. (Dkt. 11, 17, 18). A hearing on the cross- motions for summary judgment was held on December 5, 2017, pursuant to notice. (Dkt. 19).

         B. Administrative Proceedings

         On September 27, 2013, plaintiff filed claims for period of disability and disability insurance benefits, alleging disability beginning May 1, 2010. (Tr. 189). Plaintiff amended the alleged onset date to September 7, 2013. (Tr. 15). The Commissioner initially denied plaintiff's disability application on January 24, 2014. Id. Thereafter, plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, and on February 18, 2015, he appeared with counsel before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Anthony M. Smereka, who considered his case de novo. (Tr. 27-63). In an October 8, 2015 decision, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (Tr. 12-22). The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner on September 22, 2016, when the Social Security Administration's Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review. (Tr. 1-6).

         For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned DENIES plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, GRANTS defendant's motion for summary judgment, and AFFIRMS the findings of the Commissioner.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was 55 years old, placing him in the “advanced age” category, on the date he filed his application. (Tr. 21). Plaintiff has past relevant work as a sales person, which is skilled and medium as performed. Id. Plaintiff suffers from abdominal pain, obesity, congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation, obstructive sleep apnea, and diverticulitis. (Tr. 17). The ALJ applied the five-step disability analysis to plaintiff's claims and found at step one that plaintiff did not engage in any substantial gainful activity since the application date. (Tr. 17). At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff had the following severe impairments: status post hernia repair and obesity. Id. The ALJ found the remainder of plaintiff's impairments to be non-severe.

         At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled one of the listings in the regulations. Id. at 17-18. The ALJ assessed plaintiff's residual functional capacity (RFC) as follows:

After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(c) except the claimant must avoid exposure to workplace hazards (e.g. unprotected heights or around dangerous moving machinery). The claimant cannot climb ladders/ropes/scaffolds; can occasionally climb ramps/stairs; can frequently balance, kneel, crouch, and crawl.

Id. at 18. At step four, the ALJ determined that plaintiff could perform his past relevant work as a sales person. Id. at 20-21. In the alternative, at step five, the ALJ found that, given plaintiff's age, education, work experience and RFC, a significant number of jobs exists in the national economy that plaintiff is capable of performing. Id. at 21-22. Therefore, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff has not been under a disability from the application date through the date of the decision. Id. at 22.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Stand ...


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