United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
Robert J. Jonker Judge.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
PHILLIP J. GREEN United States Magistrate Judge.
an action pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security
Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to review a
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying
Plaintiffs claim for Disability Income Benefits (DIB) and
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Titles II and XVI of
the Social Security Act. Section 405(g) limits the Court to a
review of the administrative record, and it provides that if
the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial
evidence, it shall be conclusive. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(B), authorizing United
States Magistrate Judges to submit proposed findings of fact
and recommendations for disposition of Social Security
appeals, the undersigned recommends that the
Commissioner's decision be affirmed.
Court's jurisdiction is confined to a review of the
Commissioner's decision and of the record made in the
administrative hearing process. See Willbanks v.
Secretary of Health and Human Services, 847 F.2d 301,
303 (6th Cir. 1988). The scope of judicial review in a social
security case is limited to determining whether the
Commissioner applied the proper legal standards in making her
decision and whether there exists in the record substantial
evidence supporting that decision. See Brainard
v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 889 F.2d 679,
681 (6th Cir. 1989). The Court may not conduct a de novo
review of the case, resolve evidentiary conflicts, or decide
questions of credibility. See Garner v. Heckler, 745
F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984). It is the Commissioner who is
charged with finding the facts relevant to an application for
disability benefits, and her findings are conclusive provided
they are supported by substantial evidence. See 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than a
preponderance. See Cohen v. Secretary of Department of
Health and Human Services, 964 F.2d 524, 528 (6th Cir.
1992). It is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. See
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971);
Bogle v. Sullivan, 998 F.2d 342, 347 (6th Cir.
1993). In determining the substantiality of the evidence, the
Court must consider the evidence on the record as a whole and
take into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from
its weight. See Richardson v. Secretary of Health and
Human Services, 735 F.2d 962, 963 (6th Cir. 1984). As
has been widely recognized, the substantial evidence standard
presupposes the existence of a zone within which the decision
maker can properly rule either way, without judicial
interference. See Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545
(6th Cir. 1986). This standard affords to the administrative
decision maker considerable latitude, and indicates that a
decision supported by substantial evidence will not be
reversed simply because the evidence would have supported a
contrary decision. See Bogle, 998 F.2d at 347;
Mullen, 800 F.2d at 545.
was 38 years of age on his alleged disability onset date.
(ECF No. 8-7, PageID.264). He successfully completed high
school and worked previously as a hi-lo driver and production
line welder. (ECF No. 8-2, PageID.72). Plaintiff applied for
benefits on August 25, 2015, alleging that he had been
disabled since December 11, 2103, due to: (1) herniated
discs, nerve damage, and numbness in his back; (2) torn
cartilage in his knees; (3) floating bone spurs in his neck;
(4) loss of fluid in his shoulder joints; (5) carpal tunnel
syndrome; (6) inflammatory arthritis; (7) hypertension; (8)
high cholesterol; (9) migraines; (10) vertigo; (11)
depression; and (12) anxiety. (PageID.264-72, 301).
applications were denied, after which time he requested a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (PageID.
128-262). On August 17, 2017, Plaintiff appeared before ALJ
Cynthia Harmon, with testimony being offered by Plaintiff and
a vocational expert. (ECF No. 8-3, PageID.81-126). In a
written decision dated January 4, 2018, the ALJ determined
that Plaintiff was not disabled. (PageID.43-74). The Appeals
Council declined to review the ALJ's determination,
rendering it the Commissioner's final decision in the
matter. (PageID.29-33). Plaintiff subsequently initiated this
action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),
seeking judicial review of the ALJ's decision.
OF THE ALJ'S DECISION
social security regulations articulate a five-step sequential
process for evaluating disability. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a-f), 416.920(a-f). If
the Commissioner can make a dispositive finding at any point
in the review, no further finding is required. See
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a),
416.920(a). The regulations also provide that, if a claimant
suffers from a nonexertional impairment as well as an
exertional impairment, both are considered in determining his
residual functional capacity. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1545, 416.945.
burden of establishing the right to benefits rests squarely
on Plaintiffs shoulders, and he can satisfy his burden by
demonstrating that his impairments are so severe that he is
unable to perform his previous work, and cannot, considering
his age, education, and work experience, perform any other
substantial gainful employment existing in significant
numbers in the national economy. See 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(2)(A); Cohen, 964
F.2d at 528. While the burden of proof shifts to the
Commissioner at step five of the sequential evaluation
process, Plaintiff bears the burden of proof through step
four of the procedure, the point at which his residual
functioning capacity (RFC) is determined. See Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5 (1987); Walters v.
Commissioner of Social Security, 127 F.3d 525, 528 (6th
determined that Plaintiff suffers from: (1) degenerative disc
disease; (2) bilateral carpal and cubital tunnel syndrome;
(3) degenerative joint disease of the left acromioclavicular
joint with left shoulder rotator cuff tendonitis; and (4)
left knee chondromalacia and synovitis with effusion, severe
impairments that whether considered alone or in combination
with other impairments, failed to satisfy the requirements of
any impairment identified in the Listing of Impairments
detailed in 20 C.F.R., Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
respect to Plaintiffs residual functional capacity, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff retained the ability to perform
light work subject to the following limitations: (1) he can
frequently, but not repetitively, push or pull with the left
upper extremity; (2) he can occasionally climb ramps and
stairs, but can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; (3)
he can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl; (4) he
can frequently, but not repetitively, reach overhead with his
left upper extremity; (5) he can frequently, but not