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Sheldon v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

July 30, 2019

JENNIFER J. SHELDON, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          DAVID M. LAWSON, DISTRICT JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          MONA K. MAJZOUB, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Jennifer J. Sheldon 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 Sentence Four Remand (docket no. 14) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 15). Plaintiff has also filed a Reply to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Docket no. 17.) The motions have been referred to the undersigned for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). (Docket no. 3.) The undersigned 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.

         I. RECOMMENDATION

         For the reasons that follow, it is recommended that Plaintiff's Motion for Sentence Four Remand (docket no. 14) be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 15) be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. It is further recommended that this matter be remanded for consideration of the effect of Plaintiff's hospitalizations and nursing home care on her ability to perform sustained work activities on a regular and continuing basis.

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff protectively filed an application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits on May 6, 2016, alleging that she has been disabled since December 1, 2015, due to borderline personality disorder, anxiety, depression, degeneration of the discs in her back, degeneration of her knee joints, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), migraine headaches, a pacemaker, heart disease, and fibromyalgia. (TR 12, 213, 308-09, 338.) The Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's claims on October 31, 2016, and Plaintiff requested a de novo hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (TR 194-213, 222-23, 229-30.) On April 25, 2018, Plaintiff appeared with a representative and testified at a hearing before ALJ JoErin O'Leary. (TR 108-55.) The ALJ subsequently issued an unfavorable decision on May 21, 2018, and the Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's decision. (TR 1-6, 12-27.) Plaintiff then commenced this action for judicial review, and the parties filed cross dispositive motions, which are currently before the Court.

         III. HEARING TESTIMONY AND MEDICAL EVIDENCE

         Plaintiff (docket no. 14 at 5-7) and the ALJ (TR 19-26) have set forth detailed, factual summaries of Plaintiff's medical record and the hearing testimony. Defendant incorporates the ALJ's recitation of the facts into her brief. (Docket no. 15 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 between Plaintiff's and the ALJ's 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.

         IV. ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE'S DETERMINATION

         The ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of December 1, 2015, and that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: history of heart defect and transient ischemic attack (TIA) with pacemaker implantation and arrhythmia, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), bilateral hip degenerative joint disease, migraines, fibromyalgia, obesity, bipolar disorder, personality disorder, anxiety disorder, and substance abuse disorder. (TR 14-15.) The ALJ also found that Plaintiff's infection with sepsis was not a severe impairment because it did not last for twelve continuous months. (TR 15.) Additionally, the ALJ determined 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 15-18.) The ALJ then found that Plaintiff had the following residual functional capacity (RFC):

[C]laimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) except she can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She can never kneel or crawl. The claimant can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, and crouch. She can never be exposed to unprotected heights or dangerous moving mechanical parts. She can tolerate occasional exposure to extreme cold, heat, dusts, odors, fumes, and pulmonary irritants. The claimant can understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions. She can make work-related decisions. She can occasionally deal with supervisors, coworkers, and the general public. The claimant can perform frequent, but not constant, handling and fingering.

(TR 18-25.) 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.) Therefore, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act at any time from December 1, 2015, through the date of the decision. (TR 13, 26-27.)

         V. ...


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