United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
Robert J. Jonker, Judge
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
PHILLIP J. GREEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
an action pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security
Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to review a final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiffs claim
for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental
Security Income (SSI) under Titles II and XVI of the Social
Security Act. Section 405(g) limits the Court to a review of
the administrative record and provides that if the
Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial
evidence, it shall be conclusive. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(B), authorizing United States Magistrate
Judges to submit proposed findings of fact and
recommendations for disposition of Social Security appeals,
the undersigned recommends that the Commissioner's
decision be affirmed.
Court's jurisdiction is confined to a review of the
Commissioner's decision and of the record made in the
administrative hearing process. See Willbanks v.
Secretary of Health and Human Services, 847 F.2d 301,
303 (6th Cir. 1988). The scope of judicial review in a social
security case is limited to determining whether the
Commissioner applied the proper legal standards in making her
decision and whether there exists in the record substantial
evidence supporting that decision. See Brainard
v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 889 F.2d 679,
681 (6th Cir. 1989). The Court may not conduct a de novo
review of the case, resolve evidentiary conflicts, or decide
questions of credibility. See Garner v. Heckler, 745
F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984). It is the Commissioner who is
charged with finding the facts relevant to an application for
disability benefits, and her findings are conclusive provided
they are supported by substantial evidence. See 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than a
preponderance. See Cohen v. Secretary of Department of
Health and Human Services, 964 F.2d 524, 528 (6th Cir.
1992). It is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. See
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971);
Bogle v. Sullivan, 998 F.2d 342, 347 (6th Cir.
1993). In determining the substantiality of the evidence, the
Court must consider the evidence on the record as a whole and
take into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from
its weight. See Richardson v. Secretary of Health and
Human Services, 735 F.2d 962, 963 (6th Cir. 1984). As
has been widely recognized, the substantial evidence standard
presupposes the existence of a zone within which the decision
maker can properly rule either way, without judicial
interference. See Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545
(6th Cir. 1986). This standard affords to the administrative
decision maker considerable latitude, and indicates that a
decision supported by substantial evidence will not be
reversed simply because the evidence would have supported a
contrary decision. See Bogle, 998 F.2d at 347;
Mullen, 800 F.2d at 545.
was 28 years of age on her alleged disability onset date.
(Op., PageID.68). She successfully completed high school and
worked previously as a cashier-checker. (Id.,
PageID.68). Plaintiff applied for benefits on September 9,
2015, alleging that she had been disabled since October 1,
2013, due to: (1) torn disc, annular tear; (2) back injury;
(3) sciatica; (4) interstitial cystitis; (5) bipolar II
disorder; (6) asthma; (7) depression; (8) post-traumatic
stress disorder; (9) severe allergies; (10) insomnia; (11)
irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); (12) attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); (13) arthritis; (14) anxiety;
(15) fatigue; (16) facet joint pain; (17) hypoglycemia; and
(18) piriformis syndrome. (ECF No. 7-2, 7-6, 7-7, PageID.57,
applications were denied, after which time she requested a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (ECF No.
7-4, 7-5, PageID. 195-329). Following an administrative
hearing, ALJ Douglas Johnson, in an opinion dated April 16,
2018, determined that Plaintiff was not disabled. (ECF No.
7-2, PageID.57- 70, 76-123). The Appeals Council declined to
review the ALJ's determination, rendering it the
Commissioner's final decision in the matter.
(Id., PageID.28-33). Plaintiff subsequently
initiated this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),
seeking judicial review of the ALJ's decision.
OF THE ALJ'S DECISION
social security regulations articulate a five-step sequential
process for evaluating disability. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a-f), 416.920(a-f). If the Commissioner
can make a dispositive finding at any point in the review, no
further finding is required. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a). The regulations also
provide that if a claimant suffers from a nonexertional
impairment as well as an exertional impairment, both are
considered in determining his residual functional capacity.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545, 416.945.
burden of establishing the right to benefits rests squarely
on Plaintiffs shoulders. She can satisfy her burden by
demonstrating that her impairments are so severe that she is
unable to perform her previous work, and cannot, considering
her age, education, and work experience, perform any other
substantial gainful employment existing in significant
numbers in the national economy. See 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(2)(A); Cohen, 964 F.2d at 528. While
the burden of proof shifts to the Commissioner at step five
of the sequential evaluation process, Plaintiff bears the
burden of proof through step four of the procedure, the point
at which her residual functioning capacity (RFC) is
determined. See Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146
n.5 (1987); Walters v. Commissioner of Social
Security, 127 F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997).
determined that Plaintiff suffers from the following severe
impairments: (1) degenerative disc disease; (2) interstitial
cystitis; (3) obesity; (4) bipolar disorder; (5) major
depressive disorder; (6) post-traumatic stress disorder; and
(7) attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These
impairments, whether considered alone or in combination with
other impairments, failed to satisfy the requirements of any
listed impairment in 20 C.F.R., Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
(Op., 4-6, PageID.60-62).
respect to Plaintiffs residual functional capacity, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff retained the ability to perform
light work subject to the following limitations: (1) she can
lift/carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds
frequently; (2) during an eight-hour workday, she can
stand/walk for four hours, although not all at one time, and
sit for six hours; (3) she can occasionally stoop, kneel,
crouch, crawl, and climb ramps/stairs; (4) she can perform
simple, routine tasks involving no more than simple, short
instructions and make simple work-related decisions with few