United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
KATHLEEN J. MILLER, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
ORDER REJECTING IN PART AND ACCEPTING IN PART THE
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (#13), SUSTAINING IN PART AND
OVERRULING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS (#14), GRANTING
IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT (#10), DENYING IN PART AND GRANTING IN PART
DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (#11), AND
REMANDING FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS
GERSHWIN A. DRAIN U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the parties' Cross-Motions
for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff Kathleen J. Miller's
request for judicial review of Defendant Commissioner of
Social Security's denial of her application for
disability insurance benefits. The matter was referred to
Magistrate Judge Patricia T. Morris, who issued a Report and
Recommendation on April 19, 2018 recommending that Ms.
Miller's Motion for Summary Judgment be denied, the
Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment be granted,
and that the Commissioner's findings and conclusions be
affirmed. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will
sustain in part and overrule in part Ms. Miller's
objections and remand the case for further proceedings
consistent with this Order.
Procedural and Factual History
Miller filed an application for disability insurance benefits
on July 25, 2014, alleging a disability onset date of
December 1, 2012. Her application was denied on November 6,
2014. Ms. Miller then requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), which occurred
on February 25, 2016 before ALJ Martha M. Gasparovich. On
March 11, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision denying Ms.
Miller's claim for benefits, finding that:
[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR § 404.1567(b)
except she is unable to stand/walk more than six hours in an
eight-hour workday; however, sitting is unlimited, but she
requires a sit/stand option at least every thirty to
forty-five minutes. The claimant could lift no more than
twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently. She may
occasionally stoop, squat, climb, balance, crouch, crawl or
kneel. The claimant requires a clean air environment free
from concentrated levels of dust, fumes, chemicals, gases and
other air borne irritants.
Tr. at 16. In addition, the ALJ found that Ms. Miller is
capable of performing past relevant work as a vice president
as generally performed (DOT 189.117-034 skilled/sedentary as
generally performed-performed up to the medium exertional
level). Tr. at 20-22. The Appeals Council of the Social
Security Administration denied Ms. Miller's request for
review of the ALJ's decision on June 23, 2017, “at
which point the ALJ's decision became the final decision
of the Commissioner of Social Security.” Wilson v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 378 F.3d 541, 544 (6th Cir.
2004) (citation omitted). Ms. Miller initiated this civil
action with the Court for review of the Commissioner's
final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Standard of Review
standard of review to be employed by the Court when examining
a Report and Recommendation is set forth in 28 U.S.C. §
636. This Court “shall make a de novo determination of
those portions of the report or specified proposed findings
or recommendations to which objection is made.”
Id. The District Court must review the
administrative record as a whole, and can also consider any
evidence in the record that has not been cited by the ALJ.
See Walker v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs.,
884 F.2d 241, 245 (6th Cir. 1989). “A judge of the
court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the
findings or recommendations made by the magistrate.” 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).
district court may affirm, modify, or reverse the
Commissioner's decision, with or without remand. 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). Findings of fact by the Commissioner
are conclusive if supported by substantial evidence.
Id. The Court must affirm the decision if it is
“based on [an appropriate] legal standard and is
supported by substantial evidence in the record as a
whole.” Studaway v. Sec' of Health and Human
Servs., 815 F.2d 1074, 1076 (6th Cir. 1987). 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) (citing
Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 25
F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994)).
must utilize the following five-step sequential analysis to
determine whether a claimant is disabled under the meaning of
the regulation. If a claimant is found to be not disabled at
one step, the analysis must continue to the next step.
first step, the ALJ must consider whether the claimant's
work activity, if any, constitutes substantial gainful
activity (“SGA”). 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(i). If it does, the claimant is not disabled.
second step, the ALJ must consider the medical severity of
the claimant's impairment(s). Id. §
404.1520(a)(4)(ii). If the claimant does not have a severe
medically determinable physical or mental impairment, or a
combination of impairments that is ...