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Gant-Holmes v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

June 4, 2019

MARY GANT-HOLMES, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Honorable Gershwin A. Drain, Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [12, 14]

          DAVID R. GRAND UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Mary Gant-Holmes (“Gant-Holmes”) brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), challenging the final decision of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying her 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. #12, #14), which have been referred to this Court for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).

         I. RECOMMENDATION

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that substantial evidence supports the Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ”) conclusion that Gant-Holmes is not disabled under the Act. Accordingly, the Court RECOMMENDS that the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #14) be GRANTED, Gant-Holmes's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #12) be DENIED, and that pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the ALJ's decision be AFFIRMED.

         II. REPORT

         A. Background

         Gant-Holmes was 59 years old at the time of her alleged onset date of July 15, 2013, and at 5'6” tall weighed approximately 196 pounds during the relevant time period. (Tr. 207). She received her GED in 1990. (Tr. 36, 208). She reported previous work as a babysitter, cashier, factory assembler, factory utility worker, and resident care in a nursing facility. (Tr. 37-39, 209). She now alleges disability primarily as a result of spinal stenosis with chronic back pain, uncontrolled type II diabetes, depression, and hypertension. (Tr. 207).

         After Gant-Holmes's applications for DIB and SSI were denied at the initial level on November 18, 2015[1] (Tr. 81, 89), she timely requested an administrative hearing, which was held on June 2, 2017 before ALJ Thomas L. Walters. (Tr. 32-47). Gant-Holmes, who was represented by attorney[2] Samuel Earley, testified at the hearing, as did vocational expert Heather Benton. (Id.). On August 21, 2017, the ALJ issued a written decision finding that Gant-Holmes is not disabled under the Act. (Tr. 15-25). On May 16, 2018, the Appeals Council denied review. (Tr. 1-3). Gant-Holmes timely filed for judicial review of the final decision on July 9, 2018. (Doc. #1).

         The Court has thoroughly reviewed the transcript in this matter, including Gant-Holmes's medical record, function and disability Reports, and testimony as to her 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.

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

          Under 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 analysis.
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, ” ...

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