United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
BERNARD D. COLLINS, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
J. Michelson United States District Judge.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT (DKTS. 13, 17)
Stephanie Dawkins Davis, United States Magistrate Judge.
Proceedings in this Court
August 8, 2018, plaintiff Bernard D. Collins filed the
instant suit. (Dkt. 1). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 72.1(b)(3), District Judge Laurie
J. Michelson referred this matter to the undersigned for the
purpose of reviewing the Commissioner's unfavorable
decision denying Collins' claim for disability benefits.
(Dkt. 3). This matter is before the Court on cross-motions
for summary judgment. (Dkt. 13, 17).
filed an application for supplemental security December 1,
2015, alleging disability beginning on November 19, 2015.
(Tr. 18). The claim was initially disapproved by the
Commissioner on March 22, 2016. Id. Collins
requested a hearing and on August 9, 2017, he appeared with
counsel, before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
Ronald Herman, who considered the case de novo. (Tr.
34-67). In a decision dated February 8, 2018, the ALJ found
that Collins was not disabled. (Tr. 15-29). The ALJ's
decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when
the Appeals Council, on June 14, 2018, denied Collins'
request for review. (Tr. 1-6); Wilson v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 378 F.3d 541, 543-44 (6th Cir. 2004).
reasons set forth below, the undersigned
RECOMMENDS that plaintiff's motion for
summary judgment be DENIED, that
defendant's motion for summary judgment be
GRANTED, and the findings of the
Commissioner be AFFIRMED.
was born in 1988 and was 27 years old on the date the
application was filed. (Tr. 28). He has past relevant work as
a fast food worker (light) and machine operator (medium).
Id. Collins alleges that he cannot work full-time
because of his knee injury, ongoing pain, inability to
effectively ambulate, and his inability to sit for very long.
(Tr. 37-38). He also says that his medications cause nausea
and that he has trouble focusing. Id. He lives with
his father. (Tr. 141).
the hearing, the ALJ considered the evidence within the
framework of the five-step disability analysis and found at
step one that Collins had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since his application date. (Tr. 20). At step two,
the ALJ found Collins' major joint dysfunction and
fracture of the left patella were “severe” within
the meaning of the second sequential step. (Tr. 20). The ALJ
found that Collins' obesity, uncomplicated mild asthma,
and possible anxiety were not severe impairments. (Tr.
20-21). However, at step three, the ALJ found no evidence
that his impairments singly or in combination met or
medically equaled one of the listings in the regulations.
(Tr. 21-22). Thereafter, the ALJ assessed Collins'
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) as follows:
After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 416.967(b) except only occasional performance of postural
activities such as bending, stooping, crouching, and
crawling; requires a cane to ambulate; and requires the
option to alternate between sitting and standing every 30 to
(Tr. 22-23). At step four, the ALJ found that Collins was
unable to perform his past relevant work. (Tr. 27). At step
five, the ALJ denied benefits because he found that jobs
exist in significant numbers in the national economy that
Collins could perform and thus, he was not disabled through
the date of the decision. (Tr. 28-29)
Standard of Review
enacting the social security system, Congress created a
two-tiered system in which the administrative agency handles
claims, and the judiciary merely reviews the agency
determination for exceeding statutory authority or for being
arbitrary and capricious. Sullivan v. Zebley, 493
U.S. 521 (1990). The administrative process itself is
multifaceted in that a state agency makes an initial
determination that can be appealed first to the agency
itself, then to an ALJ, and finally to the Appeals Council.
Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137 (1987). If relief is
not found during this administrative review process, the
claimant may file an action in federal district court.
Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 537 (6th Cir.1986).
Court has original jurisdiction to review the
Commissioner's final administrative decision pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Judicial review is limited in that
the court “must affirm the Commissioner's
conclusions absent a determination that the Commissioner has
failed to apply the correct legal standard or has made
findings of fact unsupported by substantial evidence in the
record.” Longworth v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
402 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir. 2005); Walters v. Comm'r
of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997). In
deciding whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's
decision, “we do not try the case de novo, resolve
conflicts in evidence, or decide questions of
credibility.” Bass v. McMahon, 499 F.3d 506,
509 (6th Cir. 2007); Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d
383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984). “It is of course for the ALJ,
and not the reviewing court, to evaluate the credibility of
witnesses, including that of the claimant.” Rogers
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 247 (6th Cir.
2007); Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d
469, 475 (6th Cir. 2003) (an “ALJ is not required to
accept a claimant's subjective complaints and may . . .
consider the credibility of a claimant when making a
determination of disability.”); Walters, 127
F.3d at 531 (“Discounting credibility to a certain
degree is appropriate where an ALJ finds contradictions among
medical reports, claimant's testimony, and other
evidence.”). “However, the ALJ is not free to
make credibility determinations based solely upon an
‘intangible or intuitive notion about an
individual's credibility.'” Rogers,
486 F.3d at 247, quoting Soc. Sec. Rul. 96-7p, 1996 WL
supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's
findings of fact are conclusive. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Therefore, this Court may not reverse the Commissioner's
decision merely because it disagrees or because “there
exists in the record substantial evidence to support a
different conclusion.” McClanahan v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 474 F.3d 830, 833 (6th Cir. 2006); Mullen
v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986) (en
banc). Substantial evidence is “more than a
scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance; it is
such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Rogers, 486
F.3d at 241; Jones, 336 F.3d at 475. “The
substantial evidence standard presupposes that there is a