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Rizzo v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

June 11, 2018

ROBERT RIZZO, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Honorable David M. Lawson Judge.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [14, 15]

          DAVID R. GRAND UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Robert Rizzo (“Rizzo”) brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), challenging the final decision of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under the Social Security Act (the “Act”). Both parties have filed summary judgment motions (Docs. #14, 15), which have been referred to this Court for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).

         I. RECOMMENDATION

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that substantial evidence supports the Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ”) conclusion that Rizzo is not disabled under the Act. Accordingly, the Court RECOMMENDS that the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #15) be GRANTED, Rizzo's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #14) be DENIED, and that pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the ALJ's decision be AFFIRMED.

         II. REPORT

         A. Background

         Rizzo was 49 years old at the time of his alleged onset date of February 13, 2014, and at 5'8” tall weighed approximately 175 pounds. (Tr. 46, 147, 171). He completed the eleventh grade but had no further education. (Tr. 49, 172). Over the years, he worked as a truck driver and in a warehouse, before stopping work when he injured his back on February 13, 2014. (Tr. 50, 171-72). He now alleges disability primarily as a result of back pain, neck pain, and diabetes. (Tr. 171).

         After Rizzo's application for DIB was denied at the initial level on February 17, 2015 (Tr. 89-92), he timely requested an administrative hearing, which was held on April 28, 2016, before ALJ Crystal White-Simmons (Tr. 40-76). Rizzo, who was represented by attorney Randall Mansour, testified at the hearing, as did vocational expert Amelia Shelton (the “VE”). (Id.). On June 14, 2016, the ALJ issued a written decision finding that Rizzo is not disabled under the Act. (Tr. 10-21). On July 12, 2017, the Appeals Council denied review. (Tr. 1-5). Rizzo timely filed for judicial review of the final decision on September 1, 2017. (Doc. #1).

         The Court has thoroughly reviewed the transcript in this matter, including Rizzo's medical record, Function and Disability Reports, and testimony as to his conditions and resulting limitations. Instead of summarizing that information here, the Court will make references and provide citations to the transcript as necessary in its discussion of the parties' arguments.[1]

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

         Under the Act, DIB are available only for those who have a “disability.” See Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007). The Act defines “disability” as 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's regulations provide that a disability is to be determined through the application of a five-step sequential analysis:

Step One: If the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity, benefits are denied without further analysis.
Step Two: If the claimant does not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments that “significantly limits . . . physical or mental ability to do basic work activities, ” benefits are denied without further analysis.
Step Three: If the claimant is not performing substantial gainful activity, has a severe impairment that is expected to last for at least twelve months, and the severe impairment meets or equals one of the impairments listed in the regulations, the claimant is conclusively ...

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