United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
Norma J. Engelman, Plaintiff,
Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
Honorable Robert J. Jonker Judge.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
PHILLIP J. GREEN United States Magistrate Judge.
a social security action brought under 42 U.S.C. §
1383(c)(3), seeking review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security finding that plaintiff was
not entitled to supplemental security income (SSI) benefits.
On May 19, 2015, plaintiff filed her application for SSI
benefits. (ECF No. 8-5, PageID.190-95). Plaintiff's claim
was denied on initial review. (ECF No. 8-4, PageID.129-36).
On July 6, 2017, plaintiff received a hearing before the ALJ.
(ECF No. 8-2, PageID.62-109). The ALJ issued her decision on
December 13, 2017, finding that plaintiff was not disabled.
(Op., ECF No. 8-2, PageID.44-56). On May 23, 2018, the
Appeals Council denied review (ECF No. 8-2, PageID.30-32),
rendering the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final
timely filed a complaint seeking judicial review of the
Commissioner's decision. Plaintiff argues that the
Commissioner's decision should be overturned because
“the ALJ failed to obtain an expert medical opinion
regarding medical equivalency.” (Plf. Brief, 9-10, ECF
No. 12, PageID.1012-13). For the reasons set forth herein, I
recommend that the Court affirm the Commissioner's
reviewing the grant or denial of social security benefits,
this court is to determine whether the Commissioner's
findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether
the Commissioner correctly applied the law. See Elam ex
rel. Golay v. Commissioner, 348 F.3d 124, 125 (6th Cir.
2003); Buxton v. Halter, 246 F.3d 762, 772 (6th Cir.
2001). Substantial evidence is defined as “such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). The scope of the
court's review is limited. Buxton, 246 F.3d at 772. The
court does not review the evidence de novo, resolve conflicts
in evidence, or make credibility determinations. See
Ulman v. Commissioner, 693 F.3d 709, 713 (6th Cir.
2012); Walters v. Commissioner, 127 F.3d 525, 528
(6th Cir. 1997). “The findings of the Commissioner of
Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive[.]” 42 U.S.C. §
405(g); see McClanahan v. Commissioner, 474 F.3d
830, 833 (6th Cir. 2006). “The findings of the
Commissioner are not subject to reversal merely because there
exists in the record substantial evidence to support a
different conclusion. . . . This is so because there is a
‘zone of choice' within which the Commissioner can
act without fear of court interference.” Buxton, 246
F.3d at 772-73; see Gayheart v. Commissioner, 710
F.3d 365, 374 (6th Cir. 2013) (“A reviewing court will
affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is based on
substantial evidence, even if substantial evidence would have
supported the opposite conclusion.”).
found that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity on or after May 19, 2015, the application date.
(Op., 3, ECF No. 8-2, PageID.46). Plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: “affective disorder, cannabis use
disorder, COPD, coronary artery disease status post bypass
grafting, class II angina, osteoarthritis of the left knee,
obesity, and degenerative changes to the lumbar spine.”
(Id.). Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or equaled a listing
impairment. (Id. at 4, PageID.47). The ALJ found
that plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity
(RFC) for a range of sedentary work with the following
the claimant can lift and/or carry no more than ten pounds at
a time and can occasionally lift or carry articles such as
docket files, ledgers, and small tools; can stand and/or walk
up to two hours in an eight hour workday; can sit up to six
hours in an eight hour workday; can frequently push, pull and
operate foot controls with left lower extremity; can
occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but can never climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; can occasionally stoop, kneel,
crouch and crawl; can occasionally be exposed to atmospheric
conditions, but never in excessive amounts; can never be
exposed to dangerous machinery or hazardous heights; can have
occasional interaction with supervisors, coworkers, and the
public; can carry out simple instructions; and is unable to
work at a production rate pace, such as on an assembly line.
(Id. at 6-7, PageID.49-50).
found that plaintiff's statements concerning the
intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of her symptoms
were not entirely consistent with the medical evidence and
other evidence of record. (Id. at 7, PageID.50).
Plaintiff could not perform any past relevant work.
(Id. at 11, PageID.54).
considered the testimony of a vocational expert (VE). In
response to a hypothetical question regarding a person of
plaintiff's age with her RFC, education, and work
experience, the VE testified that there were approximately
90, 000 jobs in the national economy that the hypothetical
person would be capable of performing.(ECF No. 8-2,
PageID.99-105). The ALJ found that this constituted a
significant number of jobs and found that plaintiff was not
disabled. (Op., 12-13, PageID.55-56).
argues that the ALJ committed reversible error when she
failed to obtain an expert medical opinion regarding