United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
Paul L. Maloney
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
S. CARMODY, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
an action pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security
Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to review a final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiffs claim
for Disability Income Benefits (DIB) under Title II of the
Social Security Act. Section 405(g) limits the Court to a
review of the administrative record and provides that if the
Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial
evidence, it shall be conclusive. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(B), authorizing United States Magistrate
Judges to submit proposed findings of fact and
recommendations for disposition of social security appeals,
the undersigned recommends that the Commissioner's
decision be affirmed.
Court's jurisdiction is confined to a review of the
Commissioner's decision and of the record made in the
administrative hearing process. See Willbanks v.
Sec'y of Health and Human Services, 847 F.2d 301,
303 (6th Cir. 1988). The scope of judicial review in a social
security case is limited to determining whether the
Commissioner applied the proper legal standards in making her
decision and whether there exists in the record substantial
evidence supporting that decision. See Brainard v.
Sec'y of Health and Human Services, 889 F.2d 679,
681 (6th Cir. 1989).
Court may not conduct a de novo review of the case, resolve
evidentiary conflicts, or decide questions of credibility.
See Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir.
1984). It is the Commissioner who is charged with finding the
facts relevant to an application for disability benefits, and
her findings are conclusive provided they are supported by
substantial evidence. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than
a preponderance. See Cohen v. Sec'y of Dep't of
Health and Human Services, 964 F.2d 524, 528 (6th Cir.
1992) (citations omitted). It is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. See Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389,
401 (1971); Bogle v. Sullivan, 998 F.2d 342, 347
(6th Cir. 1993). In determining the substantiality of the
evidence, the Court must consider the evidence on the record
as a whole and take into account whatever in the record
fairly detracts from its weight. See Richardson v. Sec y
of Health and Human Services, 735 F.2d 962, 963 (6th
been widely recognized, the substantial evidence standard
presupposes the existence of a zone within which the decision
maker can properly rule either way, without judicial
interference. See Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545
(6th Cir. 1986) (citation omitted). This standard affords to
the administrative decision maker considerable latitude, and
indicates that a decision supported by substantial evidence
will not be reversed simply because the evidence would have
supported a contrary decision. See Bogle, 998 F.2d
at 347; Mullen, 800 F.2d at 545.
was 38 years of age on her alleged disability onset date.
(PageID.207). She successfully completed high school and
worked previously as a sterilizer of medical equipment.
(PageID.56). Plaintiff applied for benefits on March 26,
2015, alleging that she had been disabled since September 3,
2013, due to fibromyalgia, back pain, chronic pain,
depression, anxiety, and mood disorder. (PageID.207-13, 230).
application was denied, after which time she requested a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (PageID.
102-204). On July 12, 2017, Plaintiff appeared before ALJ
Nicholas Ohanesian with testimony being offered by Plaintiff
and a vocational expert. (PageID.63-100). In a written
decision dated November 2, 2017, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff was not disabled. (PageID.46-58). The Appeals
Council declined to review the ALJ's determination,
rendering it the Commissioner's final decision in the
matter. (PageID.30-34). Plaintiff subsequently initiated this
action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial
review of the ALJ's decision.
OF THE ALJ'S DECISION
social security regulations articulate a five-step sequential
process for evaluating disability. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a-f), 416.920(a-f). If the
Commissioner can make a dispositive finding at any point in
the review, no further finding is required. See 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a). The regulations
also provide that if a claimant suffers from a nonexertional
impairment as well as an exertional impairment, both are
considered in determining his residual functional capacity.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545, 416.945.
burden of establishing the right to benefits rests squarely
on Plaintiffs shoulders, and he can satisfy his burden by
demonstrating that his impairments are so severe that he is
unable to perform his previous work, and cannot, considering
his age, education, and work experience, perform any other
substantial gainful employment existing in significant
numbers in the national economy. See 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(2)(A); Cohen, 964 F.2d at 528. While
the burden of proof shifts to the Commissioner at step five
of the sequential evaluation process, Plaintiff bears the
burden of proof through step four of the procedure, the point
at which his residual functioning capacity (RFC) is
determined. See Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146
n.5 (1987); Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 127
F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997) (ALJ determines RFC at step
four, at which point claimant bears the burden of proof).
determined that Plaintiff suffered from: (1) fibromyalgia;
(2) status-post left common iliac vein occlusion; (3)
obesity; (4) depressive disorder; (5) major depressive
disorder; (6) chronic pain syndrome; (7) degenerative disc
disease [status-post fusion at L4-5]; (8) bi-polar disorder;
(9) generalized anxiety disorder; (10) an eating disorder;
and (11) borderline personality disorder, severe impairments
that whether considered alone or in combination with other
impairments, failed to satisfy the requirements of any
impairment identified in the Listing of Impairments detailed
in 20 C.F.R., Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
respect to Plaintiffs residual functional capacity, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform
sedentary work subject to the following limitations: (1) she
can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but can never climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; (2) she can occasionally
balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; (3) she can
tolerate frequent exposure to extreme cold, wetness, and
vibration; (4) she can ...