United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
Honorable David M. Lawson, Judge
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT [14, 15]
R. GRAND UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Tondra Lewis (“Lewis”) brings this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), challenging the final
decision of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying her application for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under the
Social Security Act (the “Act”). Both parties
have filed summary judgment motions (Docs. #14, #15), which
have been referred to the Court for a Report and
Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).
reasons set forth below, the Court finds that the
Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ”) conclusion
that Lewis is not disabled under the Act is not supported by
substantial evidence. Accordingly, the Court recommends that
the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. #15) be DENIED,
Lewis's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc.
#14) be GRANTED IN PART to the
extent it seeks remand, and DENIED IN PART
to the extent it seeks an award of benefits and that,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this case be
REMANDED to the ALJ for further proceedings
consistent with this Recommendation.
was 51 years old at the time of her amended alleged onset
date of July 18, 2016, and at 5'2” tall weighed
approximately 190 pounds during the relevant time period.
(Tr. 224). She has a high school education and, prior to
filing her instant applications for DIB and SSI, had most
recently worked for eight years as a monitor or supervisor
(housekeeper) for the Salvation Army. (Tr. 37). She alleges
disability primarily as a result of gout, arthritis in the
knees, and lower back problems. (Tr.224).
Lewis's application for DIB and SSI was denied at the
initial level on January 16, 2016 (Tr. 76, 77), she timely
requested an administrative hearing, which was held on March
30, 2017, before ALJ Lauren Burstein (Tr. 26-56). Lewis, who
was represented by attorneys Alari Adams and Andrew S.
Youngman (Tr. 13), testified at the hearing, as did
vocational expert John N. Stokes (Id.). On June 28,
2017, the ALJ issued a written decision finding that Lewis is
not disabled under the Act. (Tr. 13-21). On March 6, 2018,
the Appeals Council denied review. (Tr. 1-8). Lewis timely
filed for judicial review of the final decision on April 23,
2018. (Doc. #1).
Court has thoroughly reviewed the transcript in this matter,
including Lewis's medical record, Function and Disability
Reports, and testimony as to her conditions and resulting
limitations. Instead of summarizing that information here,
the Court will make references and provide citations to the
transcript as necessary in its discussion of the parties'
The ALJ's Application of the Disability Framework
the Act, DIB and SSI are available only for those who have a
“disability.” See Colvin v. Barnhart,
475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007). The Act defines
“disability” as 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).
Commissioner's regulations provide that a disability is
to be determined through the application of a five-step
Step One: If the claimant is currently engaged in substantial
gainful activity, benefits are denied without further
Step Two: If the claimant does not have a severe impairment
or combination of impairments that “significantly
limits ... physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities, ” benefits are denied without further
Step Three: If the claimant is not performing substantial
gainful activity, has a severe impairment that is expected to
last for at least twelve months, and the severe impairment
meets or equals one of the impairments listed in the
regulations, the claimant is conclusively presumed to be
disabled regardless of age, education, or work experience.
Step Four: If the claimant is able to perform his or her past
relevant work, benefits are denied without further analysis.
Step Five: Even if the claimant is unable to perform his or
her past relevant work, if other work exists in the national
economy that the claimant can perform, in view of his or her
age, education, and work experience, benefits are denied.
Scheuneman v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 2011 WL
6937331, at *7 (E.D. Mich. Dec. 6, 2011) (citing 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520); see also Heston v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 245 F.3d 528, 534 (6th Cir. 2001). “The
burden of proof is on the claimant throughout the first four
steps.... If the analysis reaches the fifth step without a
finding that claimant is not disabled, the burden transfers
to the [defendant].” Preslar v. Sec'y of Health
& Human Servs., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994).
the five-step sequential analysis, the ALJ found that Lewis
is not disabled under the Act. At Step One, the ALJ found
that Lewis has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since July 18, 2015, the alleged onset date. (Tr. 16). At
Step Two, the ALJ found that she has the severe impairments
of degenerative arthritis in her knees, hips, and lower back;
gout; and obesity. (Id.). At Step Three, the ALJ
found that ...