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Harris v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

July 10, 2018

JOHNNY HARRIS, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Hon. Matthew F. Leitman, Judge

          OPINION AND ORDER (1) OVERRULING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS (ECF #15) TO THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (ECF #14), (2) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF #11), (3) GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF #13), AND (4) ADOPTING RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION IN THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (ECF #14)

          MATTHEW F. LEITMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In this action, Plaintiff Johnny Harris challenges the denial of his application for disability insurance benefits under the Social Security Act. (See Compl., ECF #1.) Both Harris and Defendant Commissioner of Social Security (the “Commissioner”) filed motions for summary judgment. (See Harris' Mot. for Summ. J., ECF #11; Commissioner's Mot. for Summ. J., ECF #13.) The assigned Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation in which she recommended that the Court (1) grant the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment and (2) deny Harris' motion for summary judgment (the “R&R”). (See ECF #14.) Harris has filed objections to the R&R (the “Objections”). (See ECF #15.) As set forth below, the Court OVERRULES Harris' Objections, DENIES Harris' motion for summary judgment, GRANTS the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment, and ADOPTS the recommended disposition in the R&R.

         I

         A[1]

         On May 22, 2015, Harris filed his application for disability insurance benefits, claiming disability beginning July 18, 2009. (See Admin. R., ECF #7-5 at Pg. ID 243-51.) The Social Security Administration (the “SSA”) denied Harris' application for benefits on the ground that Harris was not disabled. (See Admin. R., ECF #7-3 at Pg. ID 114.) Harris thereafter requested and received a de novo hearing before an administrative law judge (the “ALJ”). The ALJ held an initial hearing on March 25, 2016 and then a longer hearing on October 17, 2016. (See Admin. R., ECF #7-2 at Pg. ID 67-96.) Harris and a vocational expert testified at the hearing.

         On January 10, 2017, the ALJ issued a written decision in which he affirmed the SSA's denial of benefits. (See Id. at Pg. ID 49-66.) The ALJ found that Harris suffered from the following severe impairments: “obesity, obstructive sleep apnea, hypertension, exercise-induced asthma, and status post L4-5 fusion . . . .” (Id. at Pg. ID 54.) The ALJ next concluded that none of Harris' severe impairments “met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments.” (Id. at Pg. ID 57.)

         The ALJ determined that Harris had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work with the following limitations:

[Harris] could not crawl, or use ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. He could only occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch and use ramps or stairs. [Harris] should have avoided even moderate exposure to fumes, odors, gases, and respiratory irritants. He must have avoided concentrated exposure to hazards including dangerous and unprotected machinery or heights. The claimant could only occasionally bend, twist, or turn at the waist. He must have been able to use a cane to ambulate.

(Id.)

         At this step, the ALJ considered the fact that Harris “receives disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and received such benefits during the period at issue.” (Id. at Pg. ID 61.) The ALJ, however, gave the Veteran Affairs' disability assessment “[l]imited weight” because (1) the “VA standards for disability differ significantly from those of the [SSA]” and (2) there were “no records of treatments for many of the listed issues during the period at issue.” (Id.)

         The ALJ concluded that, given Harris' RFC, Harris could perform his past relevant work as a program analyst and logistics manager. (See Id. at Pg. ID 61.) In making that conclusion, the ALJ relied in part on the VE's testimony at the hearing that someone with Harris' RFC could perform this work. (See id.) The ALJ also noted the VE's testimony that “even if [Harris] were limited to simple, unskilled work in addition to the other residual functional capacity limitations, he would still be able to perform the requirements of representative occupations such as sorter/inspector []; packager/bagger []; and assembler.” (Id.)

         The ALJ ultimately concluded that Harris was not disabled from his alleged onset date, July 18, 2009, to the date of last insured, December 31, 2014. (See Id. at Pg. ID 62.)

         The Appeals Council of the Social Security Commission denied Harris' request to ...


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