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Getz v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

June 10, 2019

NICOLE J. GETZ, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Honorable Stephen J. Murphy, III

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF NOS. 17, 20]

          ELIZABETH A. STAFFORD, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Nicole Getz 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 pursuant to 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:

• Getz's motion [ECF No. 17] be DENIED;
• the Commissioner's motion [ECF No. 20] be GRANTED; and
• the ALJ's decision be AFFIRMED pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Background and Disability Applications

         Getz was born on January 21, 1981, making her 34 years old on her alleged onset date of March 27, 2015. [ECF No. 13-2, Tr. 12; ECF No. 13-5, Tr. 137]. She has past work as a packer and as a kitchen helper. [ECF No. 13-2, Tr. 19; ECF No. 13-6, Tr. 168]. Getz alleged disability from a back injury, shoulder pain and irritable bowel syndrome. [ECF No. 13-3, Tr. 55].

         After the Commissioner denied her disability application initially, Getz requested a hearing, [1] which took place in July 2017, and during which she and a vocational expert (VE) testified. [ECF No. 13-2, Tr. 33-54]. In a November 2017 written decision, the ALJ found Getz not disabled. [Id., Tr. 10-21]. The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner, and Getz timely filed for judicial review. [Id., Tr. 1-3; 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[2] 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 Getz was not disabled. At the first step, he found that Getz had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date. [ECF No. 13-2, Tr. 12]. At the second step, the ALJ found that Getz had the severe impairments of degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine with herniated nucleus pulpous and spondylolisthesis, status post-surgery; palpitations; migraines; tendonitis; degenerative joint disease of the acromioclavicular joint; restless leg syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome. [Id., Tr. 13]. Next, the ...


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