United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
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. §
405(g), seeking review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security finding that plaintiff was
not entitled to disability insurance benefits (DIB). On April
14, 2015, plaintiff filed her application for DIB benefits.
She alleged an April 1, 2015, onset of disability. (ECF No.
7-5, PageID.203). Plaintiff's claim was denied on initial
review. (ECF No. 7-4, PageID.123-30). On May 18, 2017,
plaintiff received a hearing before the ALJ. (ECF No. 7-2,
PageID.71-102). The ALJ issued her decision on October 12,
2017, finding that plaintiff was not disabled. (Op., ECF No.
7-2, PageID.53-66). On June 5, 2018, the Appeals Council
denied review (ECF No. 7-2, PageID.24-27), rendering the
ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision.
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, 8, ECF No.
11, PageID.1139). 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 met the disability insured requirements
of the Social Security Act through September 30, 2019. (Op.,
3, ECF No. 7-2, PageID.55). The ALJ found that plaintiff had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity on or after April
1, 2015. (Id.). Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: “major depressive disorder, post-traumatic
stress disorder, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar
spine, asthma, obesity, and migraines.” (Id.).
Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or equaled a listing impairment.
(Id. at 4, PageID.56). The ALJ found that plaintiff
retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) for a range
of sedentary work with the following exceptions:
she can only occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch,
crawl, and climb ramps and stairs. She can never climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She must avoid concentrated
exposure to pulmonary irritants, including extreme
temperatures, humidity, fumes, odors, dust[, ] gases and poor
ventilation. She is limited simple, unskilled work in a low
stress environment, which is defined as having only
occasional changes in work setting, and requiring no more
than occasional decision-making. She must be permitted to use
a cane while ambulating and she must be allowed the option to
sit or stand every thirty minutes for five minutes at a time.
(Id. at 6, PageID.58).
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.59).
Plaintiff could not perform any past relevant work.
(Id. at 12, PageID.64).
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 1,
275, 000 jobs in the national economy that the hypothetical
person would be capable of performing. (ECF No. 7-2,
PageID.98-100). The ALJ found that this constituted a
significant number of jobs and found that plaintiff was not
disabled. (Op., 13-14, PageID.65-66).
argues that the ALJ committed reversible error when she
failed to obtain an expert medical opinion regarding