United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
Honorable George Caram Steeh, Judge.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT [19, 20]
R. Grand, United States Magistrate Judge.
Anton Vucinaj (“Vucinaj”) brings this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), challenging the final
decision of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying his applications for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under the
Social Security Act (the “Act”). Both parties
have filed summary judgment motions (Docs. #19, #20), which
have been referred to this Court for a Report and
Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).
reasons set forth below, the Court finds that substantial
evidence supports the Administrative Law Judge's
(“ALJ”) conclusion that Vucinaj is not disabled
under the Act. Accordingly, the Court
RECOMMENDS that the Commissioner's
Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #20) be
GRANTED, Vucinaj's Motion for Summary
Judgment (Doc. #19) be
DENIED, and that pursuant to sentence four
of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the ALJ's decision be
was 39 years old at the time of his alleged onset date of
July 7, 2011, and at 5'9” tall weighed
approximately 260 pounds during the relevant time period.
(Tr. 37, 277, 281). He completed high school but had no
further education. (Tr. 37, 282). He has previous employment
as a laborer and production worker, but he stopped working in
July 2011 after injuring his back at work. (Tr. 43, 281-83,
318). He has since undergone two back surgeries, and he now
alleges disability primarily as a result of continued back
pain, as well as anxiety and depression. (Tr. 43, 281).
Vucinaj's applications for DIB and SSI were denied at the
initial level (Tr. 149-53, 166-70), he timely requested an
administrative hearing, which was held on November 6, 2017,
before ALJ Kari Deming (Tr. 30-54). Vucinaj, who was
represented by attorney Adam Banton, testified at the
hearing, as did vocational expert Beth Pasikowski.
(Id.). On March 9, 2018, the ALJ issued a written
decision finding that Vucinaj is not disabled under the Act.
(Tr. 11-23). On July 31, 2018, the Appeals Council denied
review. (Tr. 1-6). Vucinaj timely filed for judicial review
of the final decision on September 14, 2018. (Doc. #1).
Court has thoroughly reviewed the transcript in this matter,
including Vucinaj's medical record, Function and
Disability Reports, and testimony as to his conditions and
resulting limitations. Instead of summarizing that
information here, the Court will make references and provide
citations to the transcript as necessary in its discussion of
the parties' arguments.
The ALJ's Application of the Disability Framework
the Act, DIB and SSI are available only for those who have a
“disability.” See Colvin v. Barnhart,
475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007). The Act defines
“disability” as 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),
1382c(a)(3)(A). The Commissioner's regulations provide
that a disability is to be determined through the application
of a five-step sequential analysis:
Step One: If the claimant is currently engaged in substantial
gainful activity, benefits are denied without further
Step Two: If the claimant does not have a severe impairment
or combination of impairments that “significantly
limits . . . physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities, ” benefits are denied without further
Step Three: If the claimant is not performing substantial
gainful activity, has a severe impairment that is expected to
last for at least twelve months, and the severe impairment
meets or equals one of the impairments listed in the
regulations, the claimant is conclusively presumed to be
disabled regardless of age, education, or work experience.
Step Four: If the claimant is able to perform his or her past
relevant work, benefits are denied without further analysis.
Step Five: Even if the claimant is unable to perform his or
her past relevant work, if other work exists in the national
economy that the claimant can perform, in view of his or her
age, education, and work experience, benefits are denied.
Scheuneman v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 11-10593,
2011 WL 6937331, at *7 (E.D. Mich. Dec. 6, 2011) (citing 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520); see also Heston v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 245 F.3d 528, 534 (6th Cir. 2001). “The
burden of proof is on the claimant throughout the first four
steps …. If the analysis reaches the fifth step
without a finding that claimant is not disabled, the burden
transfers to the ...