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Cable v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

September 1, 2019

Jennifer Louise Cable, Plaintiff,
Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.




         This is a social security action brought under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3), seeking review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, finding that plaintiff was not entitled to disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI) benefits. On January 15, 2015, plaintiff filed her applications for DIB and SSI benefits. She alleged an October 15, 2007, onset of disability. (ECF No. 6-5, PageID.267, 269). Plaintiff's claims were denied on initial review. (ECF No. 6-4, PageID.185-200). On November 6, 2017, plaintiff received a hearing before the ALJ. (ECF No. 6-2, PageID.67-141). The ALJ issued his decision on March 12, 2018, finding that plaintiff was not disabled. (Op., ECF No. 6-2, PageID.48-60). On November 13, 2018, the Appeals Council denied review (ECF No. 6-2, PageID.32-34), rendering the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision.

         Plaintiff timely filed a complaint seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision. Plaintiff argues that the Commissioner's decision should be overturned on the following ground: “As treating physicians, the opinions of John Schneider, M.D., and Gary Detweiler, PA-C, should be given controlling weight.”[1] (Plf. Brief, 10, ECF No. 11, PageID.1106).

         For the reasons set forth herein, I recommend that the Court affirm the Commissioner's decision.

         Standard of Review

         When reviewing the grant or denial of social security benefits, this court is to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether the Commissioner correctly applied the law. See Elam ex rel. Golay v. Commissioner, 348 F.3d 124, 125 (6th Cir. 2003); Buxton v. Halter, 246 F.3d 762, 772 (6th Cir. 2001). Substantial evidence is defined as “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). The scope of the court's review is limited. Buxton, 246 F.3d at 772. The court does not review the evidence de novo, resolve conflicts in evidence, or make credibility determinations. See Ulman v. Commissioner, 693 F.3d 709, 713 (6th Cir. 2012); Walters v. Commissioner, 127 F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997). “The findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive[.]” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see McClanahan v. Commissioner, 474 F.3d 830, 833 (6th Cir. 2006). “The findings of the Commissioner are not subject to reversal merely because there exists in the record substantial evidence to support a different conclusion. . . . This is so because there is a ‘zone of choice' within which the Commissioner can act without fear of court interference.” Buxton, 246 F.3d at 772-73; see Gayheart v. Commissioner, 710 F.3d 365, 374 (6th Cir. 2013) (“A reviewing court will affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is based on substantial evidence, even if substantial evidence would have supported the opposite conclusion.”).

         The ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ found that plaintiff met the disability insured requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2008. (Op., 4, ECF No. 6-2, PageID.51). Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity on or after October 15, 2007, the alleged onset date. (Id.). Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: “degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine post discectomy in 2007, left foot and ankle posterior tibial tendon dysfunction, post left foot surgery, left plantar fasciitis, asthma, pain disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic interstitial cystitis, and obesity.” (Id.). Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled a listing impairment. (Id.). The ALJ found that plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) for a range of sedentary work with the following exceptions:

requires the option to alternate sitting and standing 1 to 2 times every hour; no operation of foot controls with the left lower extremity; no exposure to extreme temperatures; occasional exposure to fumes, odors, dusts, gasses, and areas of poor ventilation; no exposure to wetness or humidity; no ambulation over uneven terrain; occasionally climb ramps and stairs; never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; occasionally balance, stoop, and crouch; no kneeling or crawling; no exposure to hazards including unprotected heights and dangerous moving machinery; occasional overhead reaching bilaterally; limited to doing simple, routine work involving simple work-related decisions and tolerating occasional workplace changes.

(Id. at 7, PageID.54).

         The ALJ found that plaintiff's statements concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of her symptoms were not entirely consistent with the medical evidence and the other evidence of record. (Id. at 7-8, PageID.54-55). Plaintiff could not perform any past relevant work. (Id. at 11, PageID.58).

         The ALJ considered the testimony of a vocational expert (VE). In response to a hypothetical question regarding a person of plaintiff's age with her RFC, education, and work experience, the vocational expert (VE) testified that there were approximately 275, 000 jobs that exist in the national economy that she would be capable of performing. (ECF No. 6-2, PageID.133-36). The ALJ found that ...

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