United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
Matthew F. Leitman, District Judge
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO DENY PLAINTIFF'S
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DE 11), GRANT DEFENDANT'S
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DE 12) and AFFIRM THE
ANTHONY P. PATTI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
RECOMMENDATION: For the reasons that follow, it is
RECOMMENDED that the Court
DENY Plaintiff's motion for summary
judgment (DE 11), GRANT Defendant's
motion for summary judgment (DE 12), and
AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision.
Kimberly Schwartz, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §
1383(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 (DE 11), the Commissioner's cross-motion
for summary judgment (DE 12), Plaintiff's reply (DE 14)
and the administrative record (DE 9).
Background and Administrative History
alleges her disability began on May 1, 2003, at the age of 36
(R. at 154); however, as recognized by the ALJ and the
parties here, regardless of her alleged onset date, the
earliest Plaintiff could be found disabled for purposes of
SSI is August 2015, the month after she applied. See
20 C.F.R. § 416.330(a). The ALJ therefore considered
whether Plaintiff was disabled only as of July 30, 2015, her
application date. (R. at 16, 31.) In her disability report,
she lists manic bi-polar disorder, post-traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, high blood pressure,
acute chronic respiratory failure, a bad right shoulder, a
bulging disc in her back, and a bad right knee as limiting
her ability to work. (R. at 201.) Her application was denied
in May 31, 2016. (R. at 121.)
requested a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). (R. at 132-134.) On November 8, 2017,
ALJ Bill Laskaris held a video hearing, at which Plaintiff
and a vocational expert (VE), Timothy M. Bobrowski,
testified. (R. at 56-93.) On March 13, 2018, ALJ Laskaris
issued an opinion, which determined that Plaintiff was not
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (R.
submitted a request for review of the hearing decision/order.
(R. at 9.) However, on May 23, 2018, the Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review. (R. at 1-6.) Thus,
ALJ Laskaris's decision became the Commissioner's
timely commenced the instant action on July 13, 2018.
Plaintiff's Medical History
administrative record contains approximately 508 pages of
medical records, which were available to the ALJ at the time
of his March 13, 2018 decision. (R. at 262-770 [Exhibits
1F-19F].) These materials will be discussed in detail, as
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 July 30, 2015, the application date.
(R. at 16.) At Step 2, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative
joint disease, status post fracture of greater tuberosity of
humerus, hill sachs deformity, degenerative disc disease,
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bipolar
disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),
generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety
disorder, and alcohol use dependence, in remission.
(Id. at 16-17.) 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
17-21.) 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 light work…except she could
occasionally climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds as well as
occasionally climb ramps and stairs [i.e.,
exertional limitations]. She could occasionally
balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl [i.e.,
postural limitations]. She should avoid concentrated
exposure to extreme cold, extreme heat, wetness, or humidity.
She should avoid concentrated exposure to pulmonary irritants
such as fumes, odors, dusts, gases, and poorly ventilated
areas [i.e., environmental limitations].
The claimant's work is limited to simple, routine, and
repetitive tasks performed in a work environment free of
fast-paced production requirements and involving only simple,
work-related decisions with few, if any, work place changes.
She should have only brief and superficial interaction with
the public, co-workers, and supervisors [i.e.,
mental health limitations].
(Id. at 21-29.) At Step 4, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff was unable to perform any past
relevant work. (Id. at 29-30.) 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 routing clerk, mail
sorter, and library assistant. (Id. at 30-31.) The
ALJ therefore concluded that Plaintiff had not been under a
disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since July
30, 2015. (Id. at 31.)
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