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Hardin v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

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

August 13, 2019

JERRY HARDIN, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          Terrence G. Berg 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 COMMISSIONER'S DECISION

          ANTHONY P. PATTI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. 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.

         II. REPORT

         This case concerns Plaintiff's alleged chronic pain and “habituation” to Oxycontin, ® a.k.a. oxycodone hydrochloride.[1] Plaintiff, Jerry Hardin, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying his application for disability insurance (DI) 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), and the administrative record (DE 8).

         A. Background and Administrative History

         Plaintiff alleges his disability began on October 1, 2007, his 50th birthday. (R. at 211, 242.) In his disability report, he lists several conditions (bi-lateral rotator cuff tears, phlebitis, neuropathy, lower back-pain, weakness in hands, anxiety, and depression) as limiting his ability to work. (R. at 245.) His application was denied in January 2015. (R. at 103-111, 112, 115-118.)

         Plaintiff requested a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (R. at 119-120.) On February 1, 2016, ALJ Regina Sobrino held a hearing, at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE), Timothy Lee Shaner, testified. (R. at 67-102.) On February 19, 2016, Plaintiff amended his onset date to July 1, 2011. (R. at 238.) ALJ Sobrino held a supplemental hearing on February 2, 2017, at which Plaintiff, medical expert Henry Urbaniak, and VE Shaner testified. (R. at 28-66.)[2] On August 30, 2017, ALJ Sobrino issued an opinion, which determined that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act at any time from July 1, 2011, the alleged onset date (AOD), through December 31, 2012, the date last insured (DLI). (R. at 8-25.)[3]

         Plaintiff submitted a request for review of the hearing decision/order. (R. at 210.) However, on May 1, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (R. at 1-5.) Thus, ALJ Sobrino's decision became the Commissioner's final decision.

         Plaintiff timely commenced the instant action on June 29, 2018.

         B. Plaintiff's Medical History

         The administrative record contains approximately 236 pages of medical records, which were available to the ALJ at the time of her August 30, 2017 decision. (R. at 24-25, 289-524 [Exhibits 1F-10F].) Of particular import are the records of James E. Honet, M.D. of Neuro Pain Consultants, P.C./Pain Care Associates. (R. at 289-366, 451-467, 468-510, 524.)

         These materials will be discussed in detail, as necessary, below.

         C. The Administrative Decision

         Pursuant 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 during the period from his AOD of July 1, 2011 through his DLI of December 31, 2012. (R. at 13.) At Step 2, the ALJ found that, through the DLI, Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: (1) degenerative joint disease (DJD); and, (2) obesity. (Id. at 13-14.) At Step 3, the ALJ found that, through the date last insured, 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 14.) Between Steps 3 and 4 of the sequential process, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”)[4] and determined that, through the DLI, Plaintiff had the RFC:

. . . to perform medium work [i.e., exertional limitations]. . ., with the following additional limitations: no climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; no crawling [i.e., postural limitations]; no reaching above shoulder level or behind the back; and no more than frequent reaching in other directions [i.e., manipulative limitations].

(Id. at 14.) At Step 4, the ALJ determined that, through the DLI, Plaintiff was able to perform past relevant work as a vehicle assembler. (Id. at 18-19.) Alternatively, 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 also could have performed, such as laundry worker, packager, and stock handler. (Id. at 19-20.) The ALJ therefore concluded that Plaintiff was not under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, at any time from July 1, 2011, the AOD, through December 31, 2012, the DLI. (Id. at 20.)

         D. ...


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