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Zimmerman v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

June 11, 2019

Todd Alfred Zimmerman, Plaintiff,
Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         This is a social security action brought under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3), seeking review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, finding that plaintiff was not entitled to disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI) benefits. Plaintiff filed his application for DIB benefits on August 12, 2015. He filed his application for SSI benefits on January 29, 2016. He alleged a March 27, 2015, onset of disability. (ECF No. 7-5, PageID.244, 256). Plaintiff's claims were denied on initial review. (ECF No. 7-4, PageID.163-79). On June 13, 2017, he received a hearing before an ALJ. (ECF No. 7-2, PageID.75-110). The ALJ issued his decision on September 20, 2017, finding that plaintiff was not disabled. (Op., ECF No. 7-2, PageID.52-67). On May 25, 2018, the Appeals Council denied review (ECF No. 7-2, PageID.42-44), rendering the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision.

         Plaintiff timely filed a complaint seeking judicial review. Plaintiff argues that the Commissioner's decision should be overturned on the following ground:

I. The ALJ erred in not incorporating limitations from all the medically determinable impairments, both severe and non-severe, into the Residual Functional Capacity, in not considering the combined impact thereof, and in failing to build an accurate and logical bridge between the evidence and the conclusion.

(Plf. Brief, 5, ECF No. 12, PageID.1506). For the reasons stated herein, the Commissioner's decision will be affirmed.

         Standard of Review

         When reviewing the grant or denial of social security benefits, this Court is to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether the Commissioner correctly applied the law. See Elam ex rel. Golay v. Commissioner, 348 F.3d 124, 125 (6th Cir. 2003); Buxton v. Halter, 246 F.3d 762, 772 (6th Cir. 2001). Substantial evidence is defined as “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). The scope of the court's review is limited. Buxton, 246 F.3d at 772. The court does not review the evidence de novo, resolve conflicts in evidence, or make credibility determinations. See Ulman v. Commissioner, 693 F.3d 709, 713 (6th Cir. 2012). “The findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive[.]” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see McClanahan v. Commissioner, 474 F.3d 830, 833 (6th Cir. 2006). “The findings of the Commissioner are not subject to reversal merely because there exists in the record substantial evidence to support a different conclusion. . . . This is so because there is a ‘zone of choice' within which the Commissioner can act without fear of court interference.” Buxton, 246 F.3d at 772-73; see Gayheart v. Commissioner, 710 F.3d 365, 374 (6th Cir. 2013) (“A reviewing court will affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is based on substantial evidence, even if substantial evidence would have supported the opposite conclusion.”).

         The ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ found that plaintiff met the disability insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 30, 2019. (Op., 5, ECF No. 7-2, PageID.56). Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 27, 2015, the alleged onset of disability. (Id.). Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, osteoarthritis, sensorineural hearing loss, degenerative disc disease (DDD) of the cervical and lumbar spine, hypertension, depression and anxiety disorder.” (Id.). Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled the requirements of a listing impairment. (Id. at 6, PageID.57). The ALJ found that plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) for a range of light work with the following exceptions:

He can occasionally kneel, crouch, crawl and climb ladders, ropes and scaffolds; and can frequently balance, stoop and climb ramps or stairs. He cannot perform work that requires fine hearing or frequent verbal communication. He is limited to occasional exposure to extreme cold or heat, humidity, and must avoid concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dusts, gasses, and poor ventilation. He is limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks with no fast-paced production requirements; work that requires only occasional contact or interaction with co-workers or the public; and work that does not involve frequent significant changes or adaptations.

(Id. at 7, PageID.58).

         The ALJ found that plaintiff's statements concerning the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of his symptoms were not entirely consistent with the medical evidence and other evidence in the record. (Id. at 8, PageID.59).

         The ALJ found that plaintiff was not disabled at step four of the sequential analysis because he was capable of performing his past relevant work as a production assembler and as a recycler. (Id. at 13-14, PageID.64-65).

         Alternatively, the ALJ found that plaintiff was not disabled at step five of the sequential analysis. The ALJ considered the testimony of a vocational expert. In response to a hypothetical question regarding a person of plaintiff's age with his RFC, education, and work experience, the vocational expert testified that there were approximately 370, 000 jobs that exist in the national economy that he would be capable of performing. (ECF No. 7-2, PageID.104-07). ...

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