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Edwards v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

June 19, 2018

ENOCH EDWARDS, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          HONORABLE DAVID M. LAWSON MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [10, 11]

          DAVID R. GRAND UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Enoch Edwards (“Edwards”) brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), challenging the final decision of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying his applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under the Social Security Act (the “Act”). Both parties have filed summary judgment motions (Docs. #10, 11), 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 Edwards is not disabled under the Act. Accordingly, the Court RECOMMENDS that the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #11) be GRANTED, Edwards' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #10) 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

         Edwards filed prior applications for DIB and SSI on July 9, 2010. (Tr. 12). On January 23, 2012, ALJ G.B. Arthur issued a written decision denying those applications. (Tr. 74-80).

         Edwards then filed new applications for DIB and SSI on October 21, 2014, alleging disability as of April 26, 2014. (Tr. 168-80). At the time of that alleged onset date, Edwards was 52 years old. (Tr. 197). He had completed high school but had no further education. (Tr. 33, 203). Edwards has prior work history as a security guard, laborer, and parking lot attendant, but he stopped working in April 2014 because of his medical conditions. (Tr. 33-35, 202-03). He alleges disability primarily as a result of back pain, depression/paranoia, and drug addiction/alcoholism (both of which are in remission). (Tr. 37-38, 42, 202).

         After Edwards' 2014 applications for DIB and SSI were denied at the initial level on December 2, 2014 (Tr. 108-15), he timely requested an administrative hearing, which was held on March 22, 2016, before ALJ Ramona Fernandez (Tr. 28-60). Edwards, who was represented by attorney Karen Morgan, testified at the hearing, as did vocational expert LuAnn Castellana. (Id.). On September 8, 2016, the ALJ issued a written decision finding that Edwards is not disabled under the Act. (Tr. 10-22). On September 1, 2017, the Appeals Council denied review. (Tr. 1-5). Edwards timely filed for judicial review of the final decision on October 5, 2017. (Doc. #1).

         The Court has thoroughly reviewed the transcript in this matter, including Edwards' 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.

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

         Under the Act, DIB and SSI 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), 1382c(a)(3)(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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