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Burnett v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

April 30, 2018

MONYAKA BURNETT, Plaintiff
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Honorable Stephen J. Murphy, III

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF. NOS. 11, 12]

          ELIZABETH A. STAFFORD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Monyaka Burnett appeals the final decision of defendant Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner), which denied 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 that:

. Burnett's motion [ECF No. 11] be DENIED;
. the Commissioner's motion [ECF No. 12] be GRANTED; and
. the ALJ's decision be AFFIRMED pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Burnett's Background and Disability Applications

         Born July 26, 1982, Burnett was 30 years old on the alleged disability onset date of July 17, 2013, and 32 years old on March 31, 2015, the date last insured. [ECF No. 9-2, Tr. 26]. She has past relevant work as a hairstylist and nail technician. [Id.]. Burnett claims disability due to a “severe compound fracture of the fibula with surgery.” [ECF No. 9-5, Tr. 153].

         After a hearing on March 9, 2016, during which Burnett and a vocational expert (VE) testified, the ALJ found that Burnett was not disabled. [Id., Tr. 32-71]. The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. [Id., Tr. 1-6]. Burnett timely filed for judicial review. [ECF No. 1].

         B. The ALJ's Application of the Disability Framework Analysis

         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).

         The 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[1] 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 (“RFC”), 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).

         Applying this framework, the ALJ concluded that Burnett was not disabled. At the first step, she found that Burnett had not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the relevant period, the alleged onset date of July 17, 2013, through the date last insured, March 31, 2015. [ECF No. 9-2, Tr. 21]. At the second step, she found that Burnett had the severe impairments of “non-displaced tibia and fibula fracture, status post ORIF of the distal tibia and fibula, morbid obesity, cervical degenerative disc disease, carpal tunnel syndrome with left hand trauma, and history of intermittent asthma.” [Id.]. ...


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