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Morris v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

August 2, 2019

JERMAINE MORRIS, Plaintiff
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Hon. Matthew F. Leitman, Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF NOS. 10, 11]

          ELIZABETH A. STAFFORD, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Jermaine Morris appeals the final decision of defendant Commissioner of Social Security, which denied his application for supplemental security income (SSI) 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:

• Morris's motion [ECF No. 10] be DENIED;
• the Commissioner's motion [ECF No. 11] be GRANTED; and
• the ALJ's decision be AFFIRMED under to sentence four and sentence six of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Background and Disability Application

          Born October 3, 1972, Morris was 42 years old on the application date, June 29, 2015. [ECF No. 8-5, Tr. 172]. He has past relevant work as an assembly line worker. [ECF No. 8-2, Tr. 49-50]. Morris alleges disability because of back and knee pain, carpal tunnel, diabetes, hypertension, neuropathy, GERD and chronic kidney disease. [ECF No. 8-3, Tr. 91-92].

         After the Commissioner denied his application initially, Morris requested a hearing, during which he and a vocational expert (VE) testified. [ECF No. 8-2, Tr. 39-74]. In a November 2017 written decision, the ALJ found Morris not disabled. [Id., Tr. 17-32]. The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. [ECF No. 8-2, Tr. 1-6]. Morris timely filed for judicial review. [ECF No. 1].

         B. The ALJ's Application of the Disability Framework Analysis

         A “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. § 1382c(a)(3)(A).

         The 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. § 416.920(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).

         Applying this framework, the ALJ concluded that Morris was not disabled. At the first step, he found that Morris had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the application date, June 29, 2015. [ECF No. 8-2, Tr. 23]. At the second step, he found that Morris had the severe impairments of degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine with radiculopathy, bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, and disease mellitus with mild diabetic neuropathy. [Id.].

         Next, the ALJ concluded that none of his impairments, either alone or in combination, met or medically equaled the severity of a listed impairment. [Id.].

         Between the third and fourth steps, the ALJ found that Morris had the ...


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