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DeLong v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

July 12, 2019

STEVEN DELONG, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Sean F. Cox, District Judge.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          MONA K. MAJZOUB, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Steven DeLong seeks judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's determination that he is not entitled to benefits under the Social Security Act. (Docket no. 1.) Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 12) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 14). This matter has been referred to the undersigned for determination of all non-dispositive motions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and issuance of a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and (C). (Docket no. 3.) Having reviewed the pleadings, the Court dispenses with a hearing pursuant to Eastern District of Michigan Local Rule 7.1(f)(2) and issues this Report and Recommendation.

         I. RECOMMENDATION

         For the reasons that follow, it is recommended that Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 12) be DENIED, that Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 14) be GRANTED, and that the case be dismissed in its entirety.

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff applied for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) on January 27, 2015 alleging that he has been disabled since October 18, 2014. (TR 156-62.) The Social Security Administration initially denied Plaintiff's claims on October 9, 2015. (TR 79-95.) On July 20, 2017, Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Theodore Kim. (TR 40-62.)

         On September 5, 2017, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on Plaintiff's claims. (TR 13-28.) Plaintiff requested review by the Appeals Council, which was denied on April 4, 2018. (TR 1-5.) On May 17, 2018, Plaintiff commenced this action for judicial review. (Docket no. 1.) The parties filed cross motions for summary judgment, which are currently before the Court. (Docket no. 12; docket no. 14.)

         III. HEARING TESTIMONY AND MEDICAL EVIDENCE

         Plaintiff sets forth a brief procedural history of this matter as well as a short summary of his medical issues. (Docket no. 12, pp. 4-10.) In addition, the ALJ summarized Plaintiff's medical record (TR 19-26), and Defendant adopted the ALJ's recitation of the facts (docket no. 14, p. 6). Having conducted an independent review of Plaintiff's medical record and the hearing transcript, the undersigned finds that there are no material inconsistencies among these recitations of the record. Therefore, in lieu of re-summarizing this information, the undersigned will incorporate the above-cited factual recitations by reference and will also refer to the record as necessary to address the parties' arguments throughout this Report and Recommendation.

         IV. ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE'S DETERMINATION

         The ALJ determined that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2018 and did not engage in substantial gainful activity since October 18, 2014, the alleged onset date. (TR 18.) In addition, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: “degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine with radiculopathy; degenerative joint disease of the lumbar spine; obesity; cervicalgia; and cervical disc herniation with spondylosis.” (TR 19.) Nevertheless, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (TR 20.) The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(a), subject to the following non-exertional limitations:

• Plaintiff can occasionally push or pull or operate foot controls with both lower extremities.
• Plaintiff requires a cane to ambulate.
• Plaintiff can occasionally kneel, crouch, stoop, balance, and crawl.
• Plaintiff can frequently climb stairs and ramps but can never climb ladders, ...

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