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Myers v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

July 25, 2019

GENA MYERS, Plaintiff,




         Plaintiff Gena Myers seeks judicial review of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's determination that she is not entitled to social security benefits for her physical and mental impairments under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Docket no. 1.) Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 11) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 12). This matter has been referred to the undersigned for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). (Docket no. 3.) The Court has reviewed the pleadings, dispenses with a hearing pursuant to Eastern District of Michigan Local Rule 7.1(f)(2), and issues this Report and Recommendation.


         For the reasons that follow, it is recommended that Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 11) be DENIED and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 12) be GRANTED.


         Plaintiff protectively filed an application for supplemental security income on October 21, 2015, alleging that she has been disabled since February 1, 2015, due to epicondylitis in both arms, an inability to lift with her right arm/shoulder, a limited range of motion in her right arm, reconstructive surgery on her right shoulder, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, a mesenteric mass, spinal stenosis in her cervical/lumbar spine, nerve damage in her lumbar spine, radiating pain down both legs, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety with panic attacks, syncope, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. (TR 15, 82, 163-68, 196.) The Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's claims on May 18, 2016, and Plaintiff requested a de novo hearing. (TR 63-82, 102-04.) On September 18, 2017, Plaintiff appeared with a representative and testified at the hearing before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) B. Lloyd Blair. (TR 35-62.) The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on November 20, 2017, and the Appeals Council declined to review the decision. (TR 1-6, 15-28.) Plaintiff then commenced this action for judicial review, and the parties filed cross motions for summary judgment, which are currently before the Court.


         Plaintiff (docket no. 11 at 5-11) and the ALJ (TR 17-27) have set forth factual summaries of Plaintiff's medical record and the hearing testimony. Defendant adopts the ALJ's recitation of the facts. (Docket no. 12 at 4.) 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 make references and citations to the record as necessary to address the parties' arguments throughout this Report and Recommendation.


         The ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the application date of October 21, 2015, and that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: status post lumbar interbody fusion (February 2017), degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, cervicalgia, right shoulder tendinosis, left shoulder rotator cuff tendinosis, bilateral epicondylitis, and fibromyalgia. (TR 17.) The ALJ also found that Plaintiff's interstitial cystitis, hypersomnia, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder were non-severe impairments and that she did not have a medically determinable respiratory impairment. (TR 17-20.) Additionally, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal the severity of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (TR 20.) The ALJ then found that Plaintiff had the following residual functional capacity (RFC):

[C]laimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b), except: the claimant cannot use ladders, scaffolds, or ropes. She can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ramps or stairs. The claimant must avoid walking on uneven surfaces. She cannot use torque, pneumatic, or power tools. The claimant can frequently, but not constantly, handle and finger. She can only occasionally bend, twist, and turn at the waist or neck.

(TR 20-26.) Subsequently, in reliance on a vocational expert's (VE's) testimony, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was capable of performing a significant number of jobs in the national economy. (TR 26-27.) Therefore, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act at any time since October 21, 2015, the date the application was filed. (TR 15, 27.)


         A. Standard of Review

         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's final decisions. Judicial review of the Commissioner's decisions is limited to determining whether his findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether he employed the proper legal standards. See Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Walters v. Comm'r, 127 F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance; it is “‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'” Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401 (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)); Walters, 127 F.3d at 528. It is not the function of this Court to try cases de novo, ...

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