United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
HONORABLE ARTHUR J. TARNOW JUDGE
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF. NOS. 9, 11]
ELIZABETH A. STAFFORD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Cynthia Jean Bjornson appeals a final decision of defendant
Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) denying her
application for disability insurance benefits (DIB) under the
Social Security Act. Both parties have filed summary judgment
motions, referred to this Court for a report and
recommendation under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). After
review of the record, the Court finds that the administrative
law judge's (ALJ) decision is supported by substantial
evidence, and thus RECOMMENDS that:
• the Commissioner's motion [ECF No. 11] be
• Bjornson's motion [ECF No. 9] be
• the Commissioner's decision be
AFFIRMED under sentence four of 42 U.S.C.
Bjornson's Background and Disability Application
July 24, 1959, Bjornson was 56 years old when she submitted
her application for disability benefits in February 2016.
[ECF No. 7-5, Tr. 158]. She has past relevant work experience
as an elementary school teacher. [ECF No. 7-2, Tr. 24].
Bjornson alleged a disability onset date of November 30,
2015. [ECF No. 7-2, Tr. 17, 38]. She claims to be disabled
because of stage III breast cancer,  physical complication from
cancer treatment, cognitive complications from cancer
treatment, fatigue, nausea and depression. [ECF No. 7-3, Tr.
70]. Bjornson's last insured date was December 31, 2019.
[ECF No. 7-6, Tr. 175].
hearing on November 1, 2017, during which Bjornson and a
vocational expert (VE) testified, the ALJ found that Bjornson
was not disabled. [ECF No. 7-2, Tr. 25, 30-68]. The Appeals
Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision the
final decision of the Commissioner. [Id., Tr. 1-3].
Bjornson timely filed for judicial review. [ECF No. 1].
The ALJ's Application of the Disability Framework
“disability” is the “inability to engage in
any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which can be
expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
Commissioner determines whether an applicant is disabled by
analyzing five sequential steps. First, if the applicant is
“doing substantial gainful activity, ” he or she
will be found not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4).
Second, if the claimant has not had a severe impairment or a
combination of such impairments for a continuous period of at
least 12 months, no disability will be found. Id.
Third, if the claimant's severe impairments meet or equal
the criteria of an impairment set forth in the
Commissioner's Listing of Impairments, the claimant will
be found disabled. Id. If the fourth step is
reached, the Commissioner considers its assessment of the
claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC), and will
find the claimant not disabled if he or she can still do past
relevant work. Id. At the final step, the
Commissioner reviews the claimant's RFC, age, education
and work experiences, and determines whether the claimant
could adjust to other work. Id. The claimant bears
the burden of proof throughout the first four steps, but the
burden shifts to the Commissioner if the fifth step is
reached. Preslar v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994).
this framework, the ALJ concluded that Bjornson was not
disabled. At the first step, she found that Bjornson had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 30,
2015. [ECF No. 7-2, Tr. 17]. At the second step, she found
that Bjornson had the severe impairments of “invasive
ductal carcinoma of right breast with metastasis to axillary
lymph nodes and degenerative joint disease of the knees,
multilevel spine, right shoulder and feet.”
[Id., Tr. 18]. Next, the ALJ concluded that ...