United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
Honorable Thomas L. Ludington, Judge
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF NOS. 15, 18]
ELIZABETH A. STAFFORD, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Nadia Alexander appeals a final decision of defendant
Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) denying her
application for disability insurance benefits (DIB) under the
Social Security Act. Both parties have filed summary judgment
motions, referred to this Court for a report and
recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).
After review of the record, the Court finds that the
administrative law judge's (ALJ) decision is supported by
substantial evidence, and thus RECOMMENDS
• Alexander's motion [ECF No. 15] be
• the Commissioner's motion [ECF No. 18] be
• the Commissioner's decision be
AFFIRMED pursuant to sentence four of 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
Background and Disability Applications
was born on March 14, 1981, making her 32 years old on her
alleged onset date of January 15, 2014. [ECF No. 11-5, Tr.
164]. She has completed schooling through the 7th grade and
has prior work history as a fast food worker and assistant
fast food manager. [ECF No. 11-2, Tr. 24; ECF No. 11-6, Tr.
191]. Alexander alleged disability due to a ruptured disc;
severe pain in the neck, back, and arm; high blood pressure;
and major depressive disorder. [ECF No. 11-6, Tr. 190].
the Commissioner denied her disability application initially,
Alexander requested a hearing, which took place in November
2015; she and a vocational expert (VE) testified. [ECF No.
11-2, Tr. 30-63]. In a November 25, 2015, written decision,
the ALJ found Alexander to be not disabled. [Id.,
Tr. 11-25]. The Appeals Council denied review, making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner,
and Alexander timely filed for judicial review.
[Id., Tr. 1-3; ECF No. 1].
The ALJ's Application of the Disability Framework
available for those who have a “disability.”
See Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir.
2007). A “disability” is the “inability to
engage in any 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
12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
Commissioner determines whether an applicant is disabled by
analyzing five sequential steps. First, if the applicant is
“doing substantial gainful activity, ” he or she
will be found not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4).
Second, if the claimant has not had a severe impairment or a
combination of such impairments for a continuous period of at
least 12 months, no disability will be found. Id.
Third, if the claimant's severe impairments meet or equal
the criteria of an impairment set forth in the
Commissioner's Listing of Impairments, the claimant will
be found disabled. Id. If the fourth step is
reached, the Commissioner considers its assessment of the
claimant's residual functional capacity, and will find
the claimant not disabled if he or she can still do past
relevant work. Id. At the final step, the
Commissioner reviews the claimant's RFC, age, education
and work experiences, and determines whether the claimant
could adjust to other work. Id. The claimant bears
the burden of proof throughout the first four steps, but the
burden shifts to the Commissioner if the fifth step is
reached. Preslar v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994).
this framework, the ALJ concluded that Alexander was not
disabled. At the first step, he found that Alexander had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged
onset date. [ECF No. 11-2, Tr. 13]. At the second step, the
ALJ found that Alexander had the severe impairments of
“degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine and
cervical spine, major depressive disorder, intention tremors,
and obesity.” [Id.]. Next, the ALJ concluded
that none of her impairments, either alone or in combination,
met or medically equaled the severity of a listed impairment.
[Id., Tr. 14-16].
the third and fourth steps, the ALJ found that Alexander had
the RFC to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R.
404.1567(a), except that:
[She] is limited to simple, routine, repetitive work at an
SVP of 1 or 2; occasional contact with supervisors,
coworkers, and the public; avoid unprotected heights and
operation of a motor vehicle; occasional climbing of ramps
and stairs, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, and
crawling; no climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; can
lift/carry 10 pounds frequently and 15 pounds occasionally;
can stand/walk with normal breaks for a total of 2 hours in
an 8-hour workday; can sit with normal breaks for a total of
6 hours in an 8-hour workday; and ...