United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
S. CARMODY U.S. Magistrate Judge
an action pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security
Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to review a final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff's
claim for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI
of the Social Security Act. The parties have agreed to
proceed in this Court for all further proceedings, including
an order of final judgment. Section 405(g) limits the Court
to a review of the administrative record and provides that if
the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial
evidence it shall be conclusive. The Commissioner has found
that Plaintiff is not disabled within the meaning of the Act.
For the reasons stated below, the Court concludes that the
Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial
evidence. Accordingly, the Commissioner's decision is
Court's jurisdiction is confined to a review of the
Commissioner's decision and of the record made in the
administrative hearing process. See Willbanks v.
Sec'y of Health and Human Services, 847 F.2d 301,
303 (6th Cir. 1988). The scope of judicial review in a social
security case is limited to determining whether the
Commissioner applied the proper legal standards in making her
decision and whether there exists in the record substantial
evidence supporting that decision. See Brainard v.
Sec'y of Health and Human Services, 889 F.2d 679,
681 (6th Cir. 1989). The Court may not conduct a de novo
review of the case, resolve evidentiary conflicts, or decide
questions of credibility. See Garner v. Heckler, 745
F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984). It is the Commissioner who is
charged with finding the facts relevant to an application for
disability benefits, and her findings are conclusive provided
they are supported by substantial evidence. See 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than a
preponderance. See Cohen v. Sec'y of Dep't of
Health and Human Services, 964 F.2d 524, 528 (6th Cir.
1992) (citations omitted). It is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. See Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389,
401 (1971); Bogle v. Sullivan, 998 F.2d 342, 347
(6th Cir. 1993). In determining the substantiality of the
evidence, the Court must consider the evidence on the record
as a whole and take into account whatever in the record
fairly detracts from its weight. See Richardson
v.Sec'y of Health and Human Services, 735 F.2d 962,
963 (6th Cir. 1984). As has been widely recognized, the
substantial evidence standard presupposes the existence of a
zone within which the decision maker can properly rule either
way, without judicial interference. See Mullen v.
Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986) (citation
omitted). This standard affords to the administrative
decision maker considerable latitude, and indicates that a
decision supported by substantial evidence will not be
reversed simply because the evidence would have supported a
contrary decision. See Bogle, 998 F.2d at 347;
Mullen, 800 F.2d at 545.
was 37 years of age on his alleged disability onset date.
(PageID.209, 234). He possesses a ninth grade education and
previously worked as a bagger. (PageID.48, 72). Plaintiff
applied for benefits on June 23, 2014, alleging that he had
been disabled December 13, 2008, due to back pain,
depression, poor concentration, cognitive limitations,
headaches, blood clot in his head, poor vision, right knee
pain. (PageID.209-13, 238). Plaintiff later amended his
disability onset date to June 23, 2014. (PageID.234).
Plaintiff's application was denied, after which time he
requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
(PageID.152-208). On December 16, 2015, Plaintiff appeared
before ALJ Paul Jones with testimony being offered by
Plaintiff and a vocational expert. (PageID.51-100). In a
written decision dated February 18, 2016, the ALJ determined
that Plaintiff was not disabled. (PageID.40-50). The Appeals
Council declined to review the ALJ's determination,
rendering it the Commissioner's final decision in the
matter. (PageID.26-30). Plaintiff subsequently initiated this
appeal pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial
review of the ALJ's decision.
OF THE ALJ'S DECISION
social security regulations articulate a five-step sequential
process for evaluating disability. See 20 C.F.R.
'' 404.1520(a-f), 416.920(a-f). If the
Commissioner can make a dispositive finding at any point in
the review, no further finding is required. See 20
C.F.R. '' 404.1520(a), 416.920(a). The regulations
also provide that if a claimant suffers from a nonexertional
impairment as well as an exertional impairment, both are
considered in determining his residual functional capacity.
See 20 C.F.R. '' 404.1545, 416.945.
burden of establishing the right to benefits rests squarely
on Plaintiff's shoulders, and he can satisfy his burden
by demonstrating that his impairments are so severe that he
is unable to perform his previous work, and cannot,
considering his age, education, and work experience, perform
any other substantial gainful employment existing in
significant numbers in the national economy. See 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A); Cohen, 964 F.2d at 528.
While the burden of proof shifts to the Commissioner at step
five, Plaintiff bears the burden of proof through step four
of the procedure, the point at which his residual functioning
capacity (RFC) is determined. See Bowen v. Yuckert,
482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5 (1987); Walters v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997) (ALJ
determines RFC at step four, at which point claimant bears
the burden of proof).
determined that Plaintiff suffered from: (1) affective
disorders; (2) borderline intellectual functioning; and (3)
organic disorders, severe impairments that whether considered
alone or in combination with other impairments, failed to
satisfy the requirements of any impairment identified in the
Listing of Impairments detailed in 20 C.F.R., Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1. (PageID.43-46). With respect to
Plaintiff's residual functional capacity, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform
work at all exertional levels subject to the following
limitations: (1) he is limited to simple, routine, and
repetitive tasks; (2) he can perform work with occasional
changes in the work setting; and (3) he can perform work with
occasional public interaction. (PageID.46).
vocational expert testified that Plaintiff's RFC did not
preclude the performance of Plaintiff's past relevant
work as a bagger. (PageID.90). The vocational expert further
testified that there existed approximately 923, 000 jobs in
the national economy which an individual with Plaintiff's
RFC could perform, such limitations notwithstanding.
(PageID.90-91). This represents a significant number of jobs.
See, e.g., Taskila v. Commissioner of Social
Security, 819 F.3d 902, 905 (6th Cir. 2016)
(“[s]ix thousand jobs in the United States fits
comfortably within what this court and others have deemed
‘significant'”). Accordingly, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff was not entitled to disability
The Decision by the Appeals Council not to Disturb ALJ's
appealed the denial of his application for benefits to the
Appeal Council. In support of his appeal, Plaintiff submitted
additional evidence procured after the ALJ's decision.
Specifically, Plaintiff submitted a two-page “Mental
RFC” form completed by one of his care providers after
the ALJ issued his decision. (PageID.31-32). The person who
completed this form did not specify the date(s) or time
period to which the assessment pertained. (PageID.31-32). The
Appeals Council considered this evidence, but concluded that
because it concerned Plaintiff's functional ability at a
date subsequent to the ALJ's decision, it provided no
basis for ...