United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
APRILL D. MITCHELL, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
Honorable Avern Cohn
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF NOS. 12, 16]
ELIZABETH A. STAFFORD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Aprill Mitchell appeals a final decision of defendant
Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) denying her
applications for disability insurance benefits (DIB) and
supplemental social security income benefits (SSI) under the
Social Security Act. Both parties have filed summary judgment
motions, referred to this Court for a report and
recommendation under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). After
review of the record, the Court RECOMMENDS
• Mitchell's motion [ECF No. 12] be
• the Commissioner's motion [ECF No. 16] be
• the Commissioner's decision be
AFFIRMED under sentence four of 42 U.S.C.
Mitchell's Background and Disability
March 19, 1958, Mitchell was 57 years old when she applied
for disability benefits in January 2016. [ECF No. 10-5, Tr.
167-76]. She has a 12th-grade education and past work
experience as an art and cooking instructor and as a
custodian/lunch supervisor. [ECF No. 10-3, Tr. 82; ECF No.
10-6, Tr. 193]. Mitchell alleges a disability onset date of
October 19, 2015, and that she is disabled by her right
rotator cuff, arthritis in both knees and gout in her right
knee and foot. [ECF No. 10-3, Tr. 85].
the Commissioner denied both disability applications
initially, Mitchell requested a hearing, which took place in
August 2017, during which she and a vocational expert (VE)
testified. [ECF No. 10-2, Tr. 36-79]. Mitchell was
represented at the hearing by a non-attorney representative.
[ECF No. 10-2, Tr. 25]. In an October 6, 2017 written
decision, the ALJ found Mitchell to be not disabled.
[Id., Tr. 22-35]. The Appeals Council denied review,
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner, and Mitchell timely filed for judicial review.
[Id., Tr. 1-7; ECF No. 1].
The ALJ's Application of the Disability Framework
“disability” is 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),
Commissioner determines whether an applicant is disabled by
analyzing five sequential steps. First, if the applicant is
“doing substantial gainful activity, ” he or she
will be found not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). Second, if the claimant has not
had a severe impairment or a combination of such
impairments for a continuous period of at least 12
months, no disability will be found. Id. Third, if
the claimant's severe impairments meet or equal the
criteria of an impairment set forth in the Commissioner's
Listing of Impairments, the claimant will be found disabled.
Id. If the fourth step is reached, the Commissioner
considers its assessment of the claimant's residual
functional capacity and will find the claimant not disabled
if he or she can still do past relevant work. Id. At
the final step, the Commissioner reviews the claimant's
RFC, age, education and work experiences, and determines
whether the claimant could adjust to other work. Id.
The claimant bears the burden of proof throughout the first
four steps, but the burden shifts to the Commissioner if the
fifth step is reached. Preslar v. Sec'y of Health
& Human Servs., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994).
this framework, the ALJ concluded that Mitchell was not
disabled. At the first step, he found that Mitchell had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged
onset date. [ECF No. 10-2, Tr. 27]. At the second step, he
found that Mitchell had the severe impairment of tendonitis
of the right shoulder. [Id.] Next, the ALJ concluded
that none of her impairments, ...