United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
D. BORMAN JUDGE
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO DENY PLAINTIFF'S
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DE 10), GRANT DEFENDANT'S
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DE 11) AND AFFIRM THE
ANTHONY P. PATTI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
reasons that follow, it is RECOMMENDED that
the Court DENY Plaintiff's motion for
summary judgment or remand (DE 10), GRANT
Defendant's motion for summary judgment (DE 11), and
AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision.
Brittany Webster, brings this action under 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g), 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3) for review
of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying her application for
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. This matter is
before the United States Magistrate Judge for a Report and
Recommendation on Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment
or remand (DE 10), the Commissioner's cross-motion for
summary judgment (DE 11), and the administrative record (DE
Background and Administrative History
August 28, 2015 application, Plaintiff alleges her disability
began on April 1, 2009, at the age of 19. (R. at 181,
203.) In her disability report, she lists
several conditions (e.g., blood clot disorders, 3
slipped discs in the lumbar spine, May-Thurner Syndrome,
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, sterility, anxiety, depression,
difficulty ambulating, Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome,
Non-Huntington's Chorea, Neurocardiogenic Syncope, sleep
apnea, chronic abdominal pain, Coumadin skin necrosis,
heparin-induced thrombocytopenia) as limiting her ability to
work. (R. at 207.) Her application was denied on February 17,
2016. (R. at 87-102.)
requested a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). (R. at 124.) On July 3, 2017, ALJ
Patricia Carey held a hearing, at which Plaintiff and a
vocational expert (VE), Charles H. McBee, testified. (R. at
32-86; see also R. at 254-256.) On December 28,
2017, ALJ Carey issued an opinion, which determined that
Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act. (R. at 8-31.)
submitted a request for review of the hearing decision/order.
(R. at 178-180.) However, on April 19, 2018, the Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (R. at
1-5.) Thus, ALJ Carey's decision became the
Commissioner's final decision.
timely commenced the instant action on May 30, 2018.
Plaintiff's Medical History
administrative record contains approximately 1, 423 pages of
medical records, which were available to the ALJ at the time
of her December 28, 2017 decision. (R. at 29-31, 267-1689
[Exhibits 1F-20F].) These materials will be discussed in
detail, as necessary, below.
The Administrative Decision
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 since October 28, 2015, the application
date. (R. at 13.) At Step 2, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
May-Thurner syndrome; thoracic outlet syndrome; obstructive
sleep apnea (OSA); lumbar spine degenerative disc disease
(DDD); deep vein thrombosis (DVT); neurocardiogenic syncope;
hypercoaguable state; anxiety; and depression. (Id.
at 13-14.) At Step 3, the ALJ found that
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 14-17.)
Between Steps 3 and 4 of the sequential
process, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) and determined
that Plaintiff had the RFC:
. . . to perform sedentary work . . . [i.e., exertional
limitations][, ] except she can occasionally climb ramps
and stairs, never climb ladders ropes or scaffolds, and can
occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl
[i.e., postural limitations]. She can occasionally
reach overhead with the right upper extremity, and can
frequently handle, finger and feel with the right upper
extremity [i.e., manipulative limitations]. She can
never work around hazards, such as unprotected heights or
moving dangerous mechanical parts, [and] she can occasionally
operate a motor vehicle [i.e., environmental
limitations]. She is also limited to performing simple,
routine and repetitive tasks, but not at a production rate
pace, for example, no assembly line work. She is limited to
occasional interaction with supervisors, coworkers, and the
general public [i.e., mental health limitations].
She can elevate her left leg six inches at the workstation
and she is to be able to use a walker or a wheelchair to
ambulate to the workstation.
(Id. at 17-24.) At Step 4, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff has no past relevant work.
(Id. at 24.) At Step 5, considering
Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the
ALJ determined that there were jobs that existed in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff
could perform, such as address clerk, document preparer, and
surveillance monitor. (Id. at 24-25.) The ALJ
therefore concluded that Plaintiff had not been under a
disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since
October 28, 2015, the date the application was filed.
(Id. at 25.)
Standard of Review
District Court has jurisdiction to review the
Commissioner's final administrative decision pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). When reviewing a case under the
Social Security Act, the Court “must affirm the
Commissioner's decision if it ‘is supported by
substantial evidence and was made pursuant to proper legal
standards.'” Rabbers v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 582 F.3d 647, 651 (6th Cir. at 2009) (quoting
Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241
(6th Cir. at 2007)); see also 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) (“[t]he findings of the Commissioner of Social
Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive . . . .”). Under this
standard, “substantial evidence is defined as
‘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
(quoting Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994)). In deciding
whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision,
the court does “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); Rogers, 486 F.3d at 247
(“It is of course for the ALJ, and not the reviewing
court, to evaluate the credibility of witnesses, including
that of the claimant.”).
the substantial evidence standard is deferential, it is not
trivial. The Court must “‘take into account
whatever in the record fairly detracts from [the]
weight'” of the Commissioner's decision.
TNS, Inc. v. NLRB, 296 F.3d 384, 395 (6th Cir. 2002)
(quoting Universal Camera Corp. v. NLRB, 340 U.S.
474, 487 (1951)). Nevertheless, “if substantial
evidence supports the ALJ's decision, this Court defers
to that finding ‘even if there is substantial evidence
in the record that would have supported an opposite
conclusion.'” Blakley v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 581 F.3d 399, 406 (quoting Key v.
Callahan, 109 F.3d 270, 273 (6th Cir. 1997)). Finally,
even if the ALJ's decision meets the substantial evidence
standard, “‘a decision of the Commissioner will
not be upheld where the SSA fails to follow its own
regulations and where that error prejudices a claimant on the
merits or deprives the claimant of a substantial
right.'” Rabbers, 582 F.3d at 651 (quoting
Bowen v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 478 F.3d 742, 746
(6th Cir. 2007)).
contends that the ALJ “failed to obtain an expert
medical opinion regarding medical equivalency
of Listing 7.18[.]” (DE 10 at 11-15 (emphases added).)
The Commissioner contends that “[s]ubstantial evidence
supports the ALJ's finding that ...