United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
G. EDMUNDS, DISTRICT JUDGE
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON CROSS MOTIONS FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOCS. 10, 12)
PATRICIA T. MORRIS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
light of the entire record in this case, I suggest that
substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's
determination that Plaintiff is not disabled. Accordingly,
IT IS RECOMMENDED that Plaintiff's
Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. 10), be
DENIED, that the Commissioner's Motion,
(Doc. 12), be GRANTED, and that this case be
Introduction and Procedural History
an action for judicial review of a final decision by the
Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff Allen
Robinson's claim for Social Security Supplemental
Insurance benefits (“SSI”) under Title XVI, 42
U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383f. (Doc. 1). Pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), E.D. Mich. LR 72.1(b)(3), and by
Notice of Reference, this case was referred to the
undersigned Magistrate Judge. (Doc. 3). The matter is
currently before the court on cross-motions for summary
judgment. (Docs. 10, 12). Plaintiff has also filed a response
to Defendant's motion. (Doc. 13).
was born on August 25, 1973, making him 41 years old when he
filed for SSI on September 19, 2014, alleging an onset date
of July 1, 2013. (Tr. 44, 157). An initial denial for his SSI
claim issued on January 29, 2015. (Tr. 97). At
Plaintiff's request, an administrative hearing was held
on April 11, 2016, before Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Kevin R. Barnes; Plaintiff and Vocational
Expert (“VE”) Stephanie Leach both testified.
(Tr. 36-81). The following month, the ALJ issued a decision
denying Plaintiff's claim. (Tr. 17-31). In May 2017, the
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review. (Tr. 1-4). This action followed.
Standard of Review
district court has jurisdiction to review the
Commissioner's final administrative decision pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The district court's review is
restricted to determining whether the “Commissioner has
failed to apply the correct legal standard or has made
findings of fact unsupported by substantial evidence in the
record.” Sullivan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
595 Fed.Appx. 502, 506 (6th Cir. 2014) (internal citations
omitted). 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.” Rogers v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir.
2007) (internal quotations omitted).
court must examine the administrative record as a whole, and
may consider any evidence in the record, regardless of
whether it has been cited by the ALJ. See Walker v.
Secretary of Health and Human Services, 884 F.2d 241,
245 (6th Cir. 1989). The court will not “try the case
de novo, nor resolve conflicts in the evidence, nor decide
questions of credibility.” Cutlip v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir.
1994). If the Commissioner's decision is supported by
substantial evidence, “it must be affirmed even if the
reviewing court would decide the matter differently and even
if substantial evidence also supports the opposite
conclusion.” Id. (internal citations omitted).
Framework for Disability Determinations
the Act, “DIB and SSI are available only for those who
have a ‘disability.'” Colvin v.
Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007).
“Disability” means 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 [twelve] months.
42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A) (DIB); 20
C.F.R. § 416.905(a) (SSI). The Commissioner's
regulations provide that disability is to be determined
through the application of a five-step sequential analysis:
(i) At the first step, we consider your work activity, if
any. If you are doing substantial gainful activity, we will
find that you are not disabled. . . .
(ii) At the second step, we consider the medical severity of
your impairment(s). If you do not have a severe medically
determinable physical or mental impairment that meets the
duration requirement . . . or a combination of impairments
that is severe and meets the duration requirement, we will
find that you are not disabled. . . .
(iii) At the third step, we also consider the medical
severity of your impairment(s). If you have an impairment(s)
that meets or equals one of our listings in appendix 1 of
this subpart and meets the duration requirement, we will find
that you are disabled. . . .
(iv) At the fourth step, we consider our assessment of your
residual functional capacity and your past relevant work. If
you can still do your past relevant work, we will find that
you are not disabled. . . .
(v) At the fifth and last step, we consider our assessment of
your residual functional capacity [“RFC”] and
your age, education, and work experience to see if you can
make an adjustment to other work. If you can make an
adjustment to other work, we will find that you are not
disabled. If you cannot make an adjustment to other work, we
will find that you are disabled.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. See also Heston
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 245 F.3d 528, 534 (6th Cir.
2001). “Through step four, the claimant bears the
burden of proving the existence and severity of limitations
caused by [his or] her impairments and the fact that [he or]
she is precluded from performing [his or] her past relevant
work.” Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336
F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003). A claimant must establish a
medically determinable physical or mental impairment
(expected to last at least twelve months or result in death)
that rendered her unable to engage in substantial gainful
activity. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The burden transfers
to the Commissioner if the analysis reaches the fifth step
without a finding that the claimant is not disabled.
Combs v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 459 F.3d 640, 643
(6th Cir. 2006). At the fifth step, the Commissioner is
required to show that “other jobs in significant
numbers exist in the national economy that [the claimant]
could perform given [his or] her RFC and considering relevant
vocational factors.” Rogers, 486 F.3d at 241
(citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a)(4)(v), (g)).
the five-step sequential analysis, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff had not been disabled under the Act since September
19, 2014, the date Plaintiff filed his application. (Tr.
22-23). At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since the application
date. (Tr. 22). At step two, he determined that Plaintiff had
the following severe impairments: degenerative osteoarthritic
changes of the bilateral hands and bilateral knees;
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine with
sacroilitis; schizoaffective disorder; asthma; and depressive
disorder. (Id.). Moving on to step three, he decided
Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of a
listed impairment. (Tr. 23). The ALJ next concluded that
Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(a) except
can lift or carry 10 pounds occasionally; occasional pushing
or pulling bilaterally; no climbing of ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds; occasional climbing of ramps or stairs, balancing
stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling; avoid even
moderate exposure to fumes, odors, dusts, gases, and poor
ventilation; requires the ability to sit or stand
alternatively at will, provided that the claimant is not off
task for more than 10% of the workday; work must be isolated
from the public with only occasional interaction with
coworkers; and is limited to simple, routine, repetitive
tasks, performed in a work environment free of fast-paced
production requirements, involving only simple, work-related
decisions and few, if any workplace changes.
(Tr. 25). Plaintiff had no past relevant work, so the ALJ
proceeded to Step Five, where he found that considering
Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC,
jobs that Plaintiff could perform existed in significant
numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 30).
court has thoroughly reviewed Plaintiff's medical record.
In lieu of summarizing his medical history here, the court
will make reference and provide citations to the record as
necessary in its discussion of the parties' arguments.
Application Reports and Administrative Hearing
Plaintiff's Function Report
completed a function report on November 16, 2014. (Tr.
193-200). He reported that he lived alone in a house. (Tr.
193). On an average day, he would wake up and put pressure on
his back to stop the pain, get up and walk around to stretch,
and then sit in bed and talk to his mother. (Tr. 194). To
stay occupied, he would watch television in bed and talk to
his family members. (Tr. 197-98).
not go outside because, he said, “I don't care to
know what's outside”; he was also “afraid
that [he] may hurt somebody.” (Tr. 196-97). Instead,
his sister or brother went shopping for him. (Tr. 196). He
estimated that he prepared his own meals weekly, including
sandwiches and frozen dinners, and that it took about twenty
minutes. (Tr. 195).
mother's request, Plaintiff would clean his room, but he
was unable to say how often or how long it took. (Tr. 195).
As his back hurt “constantly, ” he found it
difficult to clean. (Tr. 196). His mother also reminded him
to take his medication and to take care of his personal needs
and grooming. (Tr. 195).
struggled with social behavior. He described himself as
“anti-social” and wrote that he “follow[ed]
prison rules.” (Tr. 197). A question asking how well he
got along with authority figures drew a response laced with
profanity. (Tr. 199). Plaintiff also reported he had been
fired or laid off from a job because of problems getting
along with other people, explaining, “I shout
[expletive] and say what's on my mind with no
problems.” (Tr. 199).
degenerative osteoarthritis in his hands and back, he
suffered from constant back pain, morning stiffness, and
aching joints. (Tr. 193). His sleep was troubled because he
was “constantly in pain from [his] lower back”
and heard the sounds of “bones poppin[g].” (Tr.
194). Joint stiffness and aching fingers made it difficult to
dress, care for his hair, and shave. (Tr. 194). Sitting for
long periods of time hurt his back, affecting his ability to
bathe and use the toilet. (Tr. 194).
his impairments affected his ability to lift, squat, bend,
stand, walk, sit, kneel, climb stairs, complete tasks,
concentrate, follow instructions, use his hands, and get
along with others. (Tr. 198). By Plaintiff's estimate, he
could walk fifteen to twenty minutes before needing to stop
and rest for thirty to forty minutes. (Tr. 198). As for
assistive devices, he indicated that he used a wheelchair,
cane, brace or splint, and glasses or contact lenses every
day, none of which had been prescribed by a doctor. (Tr.
Third Party Function Report
sister, Anita Robinson, also completed a function report for
him. (Tr. 201-08). She had known Plaintiff since birth but
said she now spent “not that much time” with him
because she had children to take care of. (Tr. 201). When she
saw her brother, he was in bed talking to himself “and
with his imaginary friends.” (Tr. 201). He spent most
of the time “in bed from pain, ” despite his
sister's efforts to convince him to leave the house. (Tr.
204). He did not shop. (Tr. 204). He could not go out alone
because he believed people were trying to harm him and would
become defensive. (Tr. 204). For entertainment, he read or
watched television. (Tr. 205). He rarely spent time with