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Duggan v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

May 22, 2019

CHERYL DENISE DUGGAN, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          HON. DENISE PAGE HOOD Chief U.S. District Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          R. STEVEN WHALEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Cheryl Denise Duggan[1] (“Plaintiff”) brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §405(g) challenging a final decision of Defendant Commissioner (“Defendant”) denying her application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under the Social Security Act. Both parties have filed summary judgment motions which have been referred for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). For the reasons set forth below, I recommend that Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Dock. #14] be GRANTED and that Plaintiff's Amended Motion for Summary Judgment [Dock. #11] be DENIED.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff applied for SSI on May 12, 2015, alleging disability as of October 1, 2014 (Tr. 154). After the initial denial of benefits, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, held on April 3, 2017 in Livonia, Michigan. Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Richard L. Sasena presided (Tr. 24). Plaintiff, represented by attorney Barry Keller, testified (Tr. 28-44), as did Vocational Expert (“VE”) Kelly A. Stroker (Tr. 44-46). On May 25, 2017, ALJ Sasena found that Plaintiff was not disabled (Tr. 10-19). On February 8, 2018, the Appeals Council denied review (Tr. 1-3). Plaintiff filed for judicial review of the final decision on April 9, 2018.

         II. BACKGROUND FACTS

         Plaintiff, born February 7, 1966, was 51 at the time of ALJ Sasena's decision (Tr. 19, 154). She completed high school and worked previously as a security guard and poll clerk (Tr. 176, 265). She alleges disability due to back pain, leg weakness, diabetes, and hypertension (Tr. 175).

         A. Plaintiff's Testimony

         Counsel prefaced his client's testimony by stating that Plaintiff was unable to work due to the diabetic complication of peripheral neuropathy of the lower extremities (Tr. 27-28).

         Plaintiff then offered the following testimony:

She had not worked in the two years before the hearing (Tr. 28). Her last job before quitting work was as a security guard at Ford Field (Tr. 28). She quit because nerve pain of the feet made standing for long periods difficult (Tr. 29). The pain in her right foot was slightly worse than the left (Tr. 41). On a scale of one to ten, the foot pain was at “seven” on a daily basis (Tr. 42). Due to back pain, she also experienced problems sitting (Tr. 29). The back pain was intermittent but on occasion created level “ten” discomfort (Tr. 43). She had been using insulin for the past eight years and had been using a cane for eight years due to leg weakness (Tr. 29).

         She was unable to stand for more than 10 minutes at a time but could sit for at least 30 minutes (Tr. 30-31). She was able to walk one block (Tr. 31). She could lift and carry a gallon of milk for short distances (Tr. 31-32). She had not held a valid driver's license since losing her license 20 years earlier following a DUI conviction (Tr. 32). She reduced her alcohol use after the diabetes diagnosis and quit drinking altogether two months before the hearing (Tr. 32). She had not used marijuana in four months (Tr. 33). She smoked around a quarter-pack of cigarettes daily (Tr. 33-34). She lived in a house with her elderly father (Tr. 34). She received health insurance through the State of Michigan (Tr. 34). She had been taking Neurontin for nerve pain the past 10 years (Tr. 35). She coped with foot pain and burning by reclining (Tr. 35).

         Plaintiff was able to care for her personal needs but relied on her father to perform household chores (Tr. 36). On a typical day, she would first eat breakfast then rest and watch television for the remainder of the day (Tr. 37). She read but did not engage in hobbies (Tr. 44). She would be able to perform a job requiring primarily sitting, but noted that most non-computer work required standing (Tr. 37). She treated with the same primary care physician for 20 years but had recently changed doctors due to a change in insurance (Tr. 39).

         B. Medical Evidence

         1. ...


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