United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
SHANE E. WAGSTER, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOCS. 14, 16)
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 Shane Wagster is not disabled.
Accordingly, IT IS RECOMMENDED that
Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. 14), be
DENIED, that the Commissioner's Motion,
(Doc. 16), 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's
claims for Social Security Supplemental Insurance benefits
(“SSI”) under Title XVI, 42 U.S.C. §§
1381-1383f, and for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II, 42 U.S.C. § 401
et seq. (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. 4). The matter is currently before
the court on cross-motions for summary judgment. (Docs. 14,
filed for DIB and SSI on June 12, 2014, alleging disability
beginning May 18, 2014. (PageID.58). Plaintiff was born on
May 18, 1970. (PageID.213). An initial denial for both claims
issued on October 21, 2014. (PageID.58). At Plaintiff's
request, an administrative hearing was held on May 18, 2016,
before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Kevin W.
Fallis. (PageID.78-116). Several months later, the ALJ issued
a decision denying Plaintiff's claims. (PageID.55-77). In
June 2017, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review. (PageID 36-42). 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 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 the claimant 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. 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 Social Security Act
from May 18, 2014, through the date of the decision, August
2, 2016. (PageID.72-73). At step one, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since his alleged onset date of May 18, 2014. (PageID.60).
Next, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the cervical
and lumbar spines, carpal tunnel syndrome, degenerative joint
disease of the right shoulder and hips, cervicalgia,
headache, traumatic brain injury, adjustment disorder,
alcohol use disorder in early remission, and cocaine use
disorder in full remission. (Id.). Additionally, he
had the non-severe impairment of hearing loss. (PageID.61).
At step three, the ALJ observed that Plaintiff did not have
an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of a listed impairment.
(Id.). Next, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the RFC to
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and
416.967(a) except a sit/stand option, allowing the
opportunity to sit or stand alternatively provided this
person is not off task more than 10% of the work period;
occasional pushing and pulling; occasional operation of foot
controls; never climbing ladders, rope, or scaffolds,
occasional climbing of ramps and stairs, balancing, stooping,
kneeling, crouching, and crawling; occasional overhead
reaching, frequent handling of objects and fingering; and
must avoid even moderate exposure to excessive noise and use
of hazardous moving machinery, avoid all exposure to
excessive vibration and unprotected heights. Limited to
occupations which do not require complex written or verbal
communication; work is limited to simple, routine, and
repetitive tasks performed in a work environment free of
fast-paced production requirements involving only simple
work-related decisions and routine workplace changes; and
only occasional and superficial interaction with the public.
(PageID.63). Moving to step four, the ALJ found Plaintiff
unable to perform any past relevant work. (PageID.71).
Finally, at step five, the ALJ concluded that jobs existed in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff
could perform. (Id.).