United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
Janet T. Neff, 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 Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under
Title 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. For the
reasons articulated herein, 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.
Sec'y 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. Sec'y of Health and Human Services, 889 F.2d 679,
681 (6th Cir. 1989).
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).
Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than
a preponderance. See Cohen v. Sec'y of Dept of Health
and Human Services, 964 F.2d 524, 528 (6th Cir. 1992)
(citations omitted). 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.
Sec'y of Health and Human Services, 735 F.2d 962,
963 (6th Cir. 1984).
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) (citation omitted). 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 24 years of age on his alleged disability onset date.
(ECF No. 10-6, PageID.205, 220). He successfully completed
high school and worked previously as a shipping/receiving
clerk. (ECF No. 10-2, PageID.56). Plaintiff applied for
benefits on July 31, 2013, alleging that he had been disabled
since July 31, 2011, due to narcolepsy, depression, anxiety,
high blood pressure, and knee, back, and wrist pain. (ECF No.
10-6, 10-7, PageID.205-10, 220, 222).
application was denied, after which time he requested a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (ECF No.
10-4, 10-5, PageID. 170-204). On May 17, 2017, Plaintiff
appeared before ALJ Michael Condon, with testimony being
offered by Plaintiff and a vocational expert. (ECF No. 10-3,
PageID.80-133). In a written decision dated August 9, 2017,
the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled.
(Id., PageID.44-57). The Appeals Council declined to
review the ALJ's determination, rendering it the
Commissioner's final decision in the matter.
(Id., PageID.33-38). 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. He can satisfy his burden by
demonstrating that his impairments are so severe that he is
unable to perform his previous work, and cannot, considering
his 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 his residual
functioning capacity (RFC) is determined. See Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5 (1987); Walters v.
Commr of Soc. Sec, 127 F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997)
(ALJ determines RFC at step four, at which point claimant
bears the burden of proof).
determined that Plaintiff suffered from: (1) status-post
right wrist fracture/surgery; (2) history of narcolepsy; (3)
headaches; (4) attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
(ADHD); (5) major depressive disorder/affective disorder; (6)
anxiety disorder/generalized anxiety disorder; and (7)
insomnia, severe impairments that whether considered alone or
in combination with other impairments, failed to satisfy the
requirements of any impairment identified in the Listing of
Impairments detailed in 20 C.F.R., Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1. (PageID.46-49).
respect to Plaintiffs residual functional capacity, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform
medium work subject to the following limitations: (1) he can
lift/carry 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently;
(2) during an 8-hour workday, he can sit for 8 hours and
stand/walk for 8 hours; (3) he can frequently balance, stoop,
kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ramps/stairs; (4) he can
never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; (5) he can
frequently grip and grasp with his right upper extremity; (6)
he cannot be exposed to hazards such as unprotected heights,
moving mechanical parts, or moving machinery; (7) he cannot
operate motor vehicles; (8) he can occasionally operate leg
or foot controls bilaterally; (9) he is limited to simple,
routine work that involves making simple work-related
decisions; and (10) he can tolerate occasional workplace
changes. (Id., PageID.49-50).
found that Plaintiff was unable to perform his past relevant
work at which point the burden of proof shifted to the
Commissioner to establish by substantial evidence that a
significant number of jobs exist in the national economy
which Plaintiff could perform, his limitations
notwithstanding. See Richardson, 735 F.2d at 964.
While the ALJ is not required to question a vocational expert
on this issue, "a finding supported by substantial
evidence that a claimant has the vocational qualifications to
perform specific jobs" is needed to meet the
burden. OBanner v. Sec'y of Health and Human
Services, 587 F.2d 321, 323 (6th Cir. 1978) (emphasis
standard requires more than mere intuition or conjecture by
the ALJ that the claimant can perform specific jobs in the
national economy. See Richardson, 735 F.2d at 964.
Accordingly, ALJs routinely question vocational experts in an
attempt to determine whether there exist a significant number
of jobs which a particular claimant can perform, his
limitations notwithstanding. Such was the case here, as the
ALJ questioned a vocational expert. The vocational expert
testified that there existed approximately 895, 000 jobs in
the national economy which an individual with Plaintiffs RFC
could perform, such limitations notwithstanding.
(Id., PageID.123-32). This represents a significant
number of jobs. See, e.g., Taskila v. Commissioner of