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McPherson v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

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

July 8, 2019

ALAN RAY MCPHERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          Terrence G. Berg, District Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO DENY PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DE 10), GRANT DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DE 13) AND AFFIRM THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION

          ANTHONY P. PATTI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. RECOMMENDATION:

         For the reasons that follow, it is RECOMMENDED that the Court DENY Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (DE 10), GRANT Defendant's motion for summary judgment (DE 13), and AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision.

         II. REPORT

         Plaintiff, Alan Ray McPherson, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying his application for disability insurance (DI) benefits. This matter is before the United States Magistrate Judge for a Report and Recommendation on Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (DE 10), the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment (DE 13), and the administrative record (DE 8).

         A. Background and Administrative History

         1. Plaintiff's initial applications

          On January 3, 2012, Plaintiff filed applications for DI and supplemental security income (SSI) benefits, in which he alleged an onset date of November 14, 2010. (R. at 57.) On August 1, 2013, ALJ Regina L. Sleater determined that Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from November 14, 2010, through the date of the decision. (R. at 54-67.) Of particular import to the matter currently before the Court is ALJ Sleater's finding that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”):

. . . to perform light work [i.e., exertional limitations]. . . with frequent postural activities. He may not climb ladders/ropes/scaffolds [i.e., postural limitations]. He may frequently perform handling and fingering tasks and occasionally reach overhead. He may frequently, but not constantly, perform neck movements [i.e., manipulative limitations].

(R. at 60-63.)[1] On October 31, 2014, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (R. at 68-74.)

         2. Plaintiff's subsequent application

         In his subsequent application, Plaintiff alleges his disability began on August 2, 2013, at the age of 50. (R. at 156-159.) His January 2015 disability report lists several conditions (chronic neck, back and joint pain, anxiety, neuropathy, and depression) as limiting his ability to work. (R. at 179.) The application was denied on April 23, 2015. (R. at 75-85, 88-97.)

         Plaintiff requested a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (R. at 98-99.) On March 23, 2017, ALJ Andrew Sloss held a hearing, at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE), Stephanie Lorey, testified. (R. at 35-53.) On May 30, 2017, ALJ Sloss issued an opinion, which determined that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (R. at 12-27.)

         Plaintiff submitted a request for review of the hearing decision/order. (R. at 154-155.) It seems that he also submitted medical records dated April 26, 2017. (DE 28-31.) However, on February 12, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, noting, inter alia, that the “additional evidence does not relate to the period at issue.” (R. at 1-6.) Thus, ALJ Sloss's decision became the Commissioner's final decision.

         Plaintiff timely commenced the instant action on April 11, 2018.

         B. Plaintiff's Medical History

         The administrative record contains approximately 205 pages of medical records, which were available to the ALJ at the time of his May 30, 2017 decision. (R. at 24-27, 242-446 [Exhibits 1F-8F].) Also, as noted above, Plaintiff submitted 4 pages of medical records, which are dated April 26, 2017. (DE 28-31.)

         It appears that only 27 pages of the medical evidence of record (MER) fall within the relevant period, i.e., the August 2, 2013 alleged onset date and the December 31, 2014 DLI: (1) Katie Mysen, N.P.'s records, lab results and Plaintiff's adult patient history, each dated July 10, 2014, as well as a July 14, 2014 message to call Plaintiff with test results (R. at 254-255, 258-262, 270-274); (2) Mysen's July 24, 2014 notes (R. at 251-253); (3) Mysen's August 11, 2014 notes (R. at 248-250); (4) August 12, 2014 hepatic function panel lab results and an August 15, 2014 message to call Plaintiff with test results (R. at 256-257, 268-269); (5) Brian Glenn, M.D.'s October 2, 2014 notes (R. at 245-247); and (6) the December 30, 2014 computed tomography of the thorax (R. at 263-264).[2] These materials will be discussed in detail, as necessary, below.

         C. The Administrative Decision

         Pursuant to 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4), at Step 1 of the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the period from his alleged onset date of August 2, 2013 through his date last insured (DLI) of December 31, 2014. (R. at 17.) At Step 2, the ALJ found that, through the DLI, Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: osteoarthritis and degenerative disc disease (DDD). (Id. at 17-18.)

         At Step 3, the ALJ found that, through the DLI, Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments. (Id. at 18.) Between Steps 3 and 4 of the sequential process, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's RFC and determined that, through the DLI, Plaintiff had the RFC:

. . . to perform light work [i.e., exertional limitations] . . . except he is limited to occasional overhead reaching and frequent handling and fingering bilaterally [i.e., manipulative limitations].

(Id. at 18-21.) At Step 4, the ALJ determined that, though the DLI, Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work. (Id. at 21-22.) At Step 5, considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined that, through the DLI, there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could have performed, such as marker, router, and cashier. (Id. at 22-23.) The ALJ therefore concluded that Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, at any time from August 2, 2013, the alleged onset date, through December 31, 2014, the DLI. (Id. at 23.)

         D. ...


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