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Smith v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

June 30, 2019

MISTY SMITH, Plaintiff
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Terrence G. Berg United States District Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DKT. 11, 14)

          Stephanie Dawkins Davis United States Magistrate Judge

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         A. Proceedings in this Court

         On May 8, 2018, plaintiff Misty Smith filed the instant suit seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's unfavorable decision disallowing benefits. (Dkt. 1). District Judge Terrence G. Berg referred this matter to the undersigned for all pre-trial purposes. (Dkt. 3). This matter is before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment. (Dkt. 11, 14).

         B. Administrative Proceedings[1]

         Smith filed the instant claim for supplemental security income (SSI) on February 28, 2013, alleging disability beginning March 15, 2004.[2] (Tr. 13). The claims were initially denied by the Commissioner on August 1, 2013. (Tr. 13). Smith requested a hearing, and on December 2, 2014, she appeared and testified, with the assistance of her attorney, before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ Kim) Mark Kim, who considered the case de novo. (Tr. 55-85). At the hearing, Smith amended her alleged onset date to May 17, 2012. (Tr. 15, 36, 61). In a decision dated January 30, 2015, ALJ Kim found that Smith was not disabled. (Tr. 109-122). Smith requested a review of this decision, which was granted by the Appeals Council. On June 22, 2016, the Appeals Council remanded the matter back to the ALJ to address several issues. (Tr. 127-133). ALJ JoErin O'Leary held a hearing after remand on November 8, 2016. (Tr. 32-54). On December 7, 2016, ALJ O'Leary issued a decision finding that Smith was not disabled. (Tr. 12-26). ALJ O'Leary's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied Smith's request for review on March 6, 2018. (Tr. 1-6); Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 378 F.3d 541, 543-44 (6th Cir. 2004).

         For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that the court DENY plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, GRANT the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment, and AFFIRM findings of the Commissioner.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Smith was born in 1985 and was 27 years old on the application date. (Tr. 24). Smith has a high school education and has no past relevant work, although she did work as a fast food cook, a home health aide, in a gas station stocking shelves, and as a farm hand. (Tr. 24-25, 65-67). She lives with her two young children and a friend. (Tr. 65).

         The ALJ applied the five-step disability analysis to Smith's claim and found at step one that she had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the application date. (Tr. 17). At step two, the ALJ found that Smith's lumbar degenerative disc disease, lumbar spondylolisthesis and disc collapse at ¶ 5-S1 pars defect were severe impairments. (Tr. 16). At step three, the ALJ found no evidence that Smith's impairments met or equaled one of the listings in the regulations. (Tr. 19). The ALJ determined that Smith has the following residual functional capacity (RFC):

After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(a) except the claimant can sit for six hours per day, stand for one hour per day, and walk for one hour per day. She must alternate to standing for five minutes after 30 minutes of sitting. The claimant must alternate to sitting for five minutes after 30 minutes of standing. The claimant must alternate to sitting for five minutes after 30 minutes of walking. She can occasionally operate foot controls and frequently handle, finger, feel, and reach in all directions, including overhead. The claimant can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, and kneel but never crouch, crawl, or climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She can occasionally operate a motor vehicle commercially and be exposed to weather, humidity, wetness, dust, odors, fumes, pulmonary irritants, and occupational vibration. The claimant can never work with unprotected heights, dangerous moving mechanical parts, extreme cold, and extreme heat.

(Tr. 20). At step four, the ALJ concluded that Smith had no past relevant work. (Tr. 24-25). At step five, the ALJ concluded that, with her RFC, Smith could perform jobs that existed in sufficient numbers in the national economy and thus, she has not been under a disability since the application date. (Tr. 25-26).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Stand ...


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