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Shemanski v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

June 6, 2019

MICHAEL J. SHEMANSKI, Plaintiff
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          HONORABLE GERSHWIN A. DRAIN JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF. NOS. 16, 21]

          ELIZABETH A. STAFFORD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Michael J. Shemanski, proceeding pro se, appeals the final decision of defendant Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner), which denied his 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). After review of the record, the Court finds that the administrative law judge's (ALJ) decision is supported by substantial evidence and thus RECOMMENDS that:

• Shemanski's motion [ECF No. 16] be DENIED;
• the Commissioner's motion [ECF No. 21] be GRANTED; and
• the ALJ's decision be AFFIRMED under to sentence four and sentence six of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Shemanski's Background and Disability Application

         Born May 30, 1973, Shemanski was 40 years old on the alleged disability onset date of April 15, 2014. [ECF No. 14-2, Tr. 29]. He has past relevant work as a truck driver, dump truck driver, roll-off truck driver and construction worker. [Id.]. Shemanski claims disability due to herniated and bulging discs in his neck and back. [ECF No. 14-3, Tr. 65].

         After a hearing in March 2017, during which Shemanski and a vocational expert (VE) testified, the ALJ found that Shemanski was not disabled. [ECF No. 14-2, Tr. 14-64]. The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. [Id., Tr. 1-6]. Shemanski 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 Shemanski was not disabled. At the first step, she found that Shemanski had not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the relevant period-the alleged onset date of April 15, 2014, through the date of the decision. [ECF No. 14-2, Tr. 18]. At the second step, she found that Shemanski had the severe impairments of degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine status post cervical fusion; status post cervical sprain and whiplash injury; and obesity. [Id.]. Next, the ALJ ...


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