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Ortiz v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

August 21, 2019

CARRIE L. ORTIZ, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant. Position Time Position Time

          ORDER ADOPTING MAGISTRATE JUDGE R&R AND GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. 16, 19, 21)

          AVERN COHN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This is a social security case. Plaintiff, Carrie L. Ortiz, appeals the final decision of the Social Security Commissioner denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income under the Social Security Act. The case was referred to a magistrate judge. (Doc. 21). After review of the motions, pleadings and ALJ decision, the magistrate judge recommended (“MJRR”) Ortiz's motion for summary judgment be denied and the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment be granted. Ortiz has filed objections to the MJRR, and the Commissioner has filed a response. (Doc. 22, 24). For the reasons that follow, Ortiz's motion will be denied, and the Commissioner's motion will be granted.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         Plaintiff, Carrie L. Ortiz (“Ortiz”), filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits, alleging a disability onset date of September 30, 2012. (Doc. 10, 23). Ortiz was ultimately denied benefits by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) and was denied review by the Appeals Council.

         After a hearing, at which Ortiz and a vocational expert testified, the ALJ found that Ortiz did not qualify for benefits under the Social Security Act. The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Social Security Commissioner. Ortiz then commenced this action for district court review. After referral to a magistrate judge, the parties filed cross motions for summary judgment. The magistrate judge issued a report and recommendation, recommending that Ortiz's motion be denied, the Commissioner's motion be granted and the ALJ's decision be affirmed. Now before the Court are Ortiz's objections to the MJRR (Doc. 22) and the Commissioner's response (Doc. 24).

         B. ALJ Findings and Medical Evidence

         Ortiz claims a disability onset date of September 30, 2012. (Doc. 10, 23). Ortiz's disability is a culmination of mild to moderate injuries to her nervous system; bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome; posttraumatic stress disorder; depressive disorder; adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood; irritable bowel syndrome; hypertension; pain disorder associated with both psychological factors and general medical conditions; insomnia; temporomandibular joint disorder; and history of eczema. (Doc. 21). The ALJ applied the five-step process in determining whether Ortiz has a disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4).

         At step one, the ALJ determined that Ortiz had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the onset date of September 30, 2012. (Doc. 10).

         At step two, the ALJ found that Ortiz's impairments were sufficiently severe.

         At step three, the ALJ evaluated Ortiz's impairments and concluded that none of her impairments, alone or in combination, met or medically equaled the severity of a listed impairment in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appx. 1. A positive finding at step three renders the claimant disabled per se and ends the analysis. A negative finding, like the one here, does not automatically bar the claimant from benefits; rather the fact finder must continue to steps four and five to determine ability to work.

         At step four, the ALJ found that Ortiz had the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work subject to limitations:

Ortiz requires unskilled work with one, two, or three-step instructions in a non-fast-rate production environment, defined as involving no conveyor belt or assembly line work; she can only have occasional and superficial contact with co-workers and supervisors; she cannot have any interaction with the general public; she requires only low-stress environments with only occasional changes in work setting. She can carry five pounds frequently, and ten pounds occasionally; she can stand and/or walk for a total of two hours in an eight-hour workday, but only for fifteen minutes at a time; she can sit for a total of six hours in an eight-hour workday, but only for a half-hour at a time. She can perform pushing and pulling motions with the aforementioned weight restrictions for no more than two-thirds of an eight-hour workday; she needs to be restricted to a ‘relatively clean' work environment, meaning stable temperatures, stable humidity, and good ventilation that allows her to avoid concentrated exposure to dusts, fumes, gases, odors, and other pulmonary irritants. Lastly, she also requires that, in addition to normal breaks, she is off-task for up to nine percent of an eight-hour workday.

(Doc. 21). The ALJ found that Ortiz was not capable of performing her past relevant work as a bartender/waitress or teacher's aide.

         At the final step, after considering Ortiz's age, education, work experience, RFC and the testimony of the vocational expert, the ALJ determined that there were a significant number of jobs that Ortiz ...


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