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Craig v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

May 20, 2019

MARY CRAIG, Plaintiff
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Honorable Richard H. Cleland Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT TECF. NOS. 10, 151

          ELIZABETH A. STAFFORD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Mary Craig appeals a final decision of defendant Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) denying her application for disability insurance benefits (DIB) 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) and (C). The Court RECOMMENDS that:

• Craig's motion [ECF No. 10] be DENIED;
• the Commissioner's motion [ECF No. 15] be GRANTED; and
• the ALJ's decision be AFFIRMED under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Background and Disability Application

Born May 14, 1960, Craig was 53 years old on the date of application, and she alleged an onset date of April 7, 2012. [ECF No. 5-2, Tr. 15; ECF No. 5-5, Tr. 159]. Her last insured date was December 31, 2015. [ECF No. 5-2, Tr. 17]. She has past relevant work as a manager of an insurance office. [Id., Tr. 24]. Craig claimed disability from multiple sclerosis, complex partial seizures, demyelinating disease, migraines, limb numbness and pain, eye problems, arthritis, depression, losing balance, chronic tiredness and trouble sleeping. [ECF No. 7-6, Tr. 181].

         After a hearing in August 2017, during which Craig and a vocational expert (VE) testified, the ALJ found her not disabled. [ECF No. 7-2, Tr. 15-25]. The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. [Id., Tr. 1-3]. Craig timely filed for judicial review. [ECF No. 1].

         B. The ALJ's Application of the Disability Framework Analysis

         A “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).

         The 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). Second, if the claimant has not had a severe impairment or a combination of such impairments[1] 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 (RFC), 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).

         Applying this framework, the ALJ concluded that Craig was not disabled. At the first step, he found that Craig had not engaged in substantial gainful activity from her alleged onset date and her last insured date. [ECF No. 7-2, Tr. 17]. At the second step, he found that Craig had the severe impairments of “multiple sclerosis, a seizure disorder, osteoarthritis, and migraine headaches.” [Id., Tr. 17]. The ALJ did not find Craig to suffer from a severe mental illness. [Id.]. Next, the ALJ concluded that ...


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