United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
BRYAN A. SCHIPPA, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant,
Kent United States Magistrate Judge
brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),
seeking judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security Administration (Commissioner)
which denied his application for disability insurance
was involved in a motor vehicle accident in February 2012,
during which he sustained injury in the cervical and upper
back region. PageID.41. The ALJ found that “[i]n
September 2012, having failed conservative treatment
measures, the claimant underwent three-level cervical fusion
from C4 to C7 due to cervical spondylotic myelopathy, severe
spinal stenosis, and large central disc herniation
(3F/22).” Id. Based on this history, plaintiff
alleged a disability onset date of April 20, 2012.
identified his disabling conditions as: neck injury with
multi-level fusion; bilateral shoulder pain right worse;
bilateral arm spasms and pain; right foot injury and
deformity; right leg pain; chronic severe pain between
shoulder blades upper back; bilateral hip pain; severe
chronic headaches; and, depression and anxiety with loss of
concentration. PageID.194. Prior to applying for DIB,
plaintiff completed high school and had past employment as a
mold changer at an injection molding plant. PageID.195. An
Administrative law judge (ALJ) reviewed plaintiff’s
application de novo and entered a written decision
denying benefits on April 4, 2017. PageID.35-49. This
decision, which was later approved by the Appeals Council,
has become the final decision of the Commissioner and is now
before the Court for review.
Court’s review of the Commissioner’s decision is
typically focused on determining whether the
Commissioner’s findings are supported by substantial
evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); McKnight v.
Sullivan, 927 F.2d 241 (6th Cir. 1990).
“Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla of
evidence but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Cutlip v. Secretary of
Health & Human Services, 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir.
1994). A determination of substantiality of the evidence must
be based upon the record taken as a whole. Young v.
Secretary of Health & Human Services, 925 F.2d 146
(6th Cir. 1990).
scope of this review is limited to an examination of the
record only. This Court does not review the evidence de novo,
make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.
Brainard v. Secretary of Health & Human
Services, 889 F.2d 679, 681 (6th Cir. 1989). The fact
that the record also contains evidence which would have
supported a different conclusion does not undermine the
Commissioner’s decision so long as there is substantial
support for that decision in the record. Willbanks v.
Secretary of Health & Human Services, 847 F.2d 301,
303 (6th Cir. 1988). Even if the reviewing court would
resolve the dispute differently, the Commissioner’s
decision must stand if it is supported by substantial
evidence. Young, 925 F.2d at 147.
claimant must prove that he suffers from a disability in
order to be entitled to benefits. A disability is established
by showing that the claimant cannot engage in substantial
gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable
physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result
in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a
continuous period of not less than twelve months.
See 20 C.F.R. §404.1505; Abbott v.
Sullivan, 905 F.2d 918, 923 (6th Cir. 1990). In applying
the above standard, the Commissioner has developed a
The Social Security Act requires the Secretary to follow a
“five-step sequential process” for claims of
disability. First, plaintiff must demonstrate that she is not
currently engaged in “substantial gainful
activity” at the time she seeks disability benefits.
Second, plaintiff must show that she suffers from a
“severe impairment” in order to warrant a finding
of disability. A “severe impairment” is one which
“significantly limits . . . physical or mental ability
to do basic work activities.” Third, if plaintiff is
not performing substantial gainful activity, has a severe
impairment that is expected to last for at least twelve
months, and the impairment meets a listed impairment,
plaintiff is presumed to be disabled regardless of age,
education or work experience. Fourth, if the plaintiff's
impairment does not prevent her from doing her past relevant
work, plaintiff is not disabled. For the fifth and final
step, even if the plaintiff’s impairment does prevent
her from doing her past relevant work, if other work exists
in the national economy that plaintiff can perform, plaintiff
is not disabled.
Heston v. Commissioner of Social Security, 245 F.3d
528, 534 (6th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted).
claimant bears the burden of proving the existence and
severity of limitations caused by her impairments and the
fact that she is precluded from performing her past relevant
work through step four. Jones v. Commissioner of Social
Security, 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003). However, at
step five of the inquiry, “the burden shifts to the
Commissioner to identify a significant number of jobs in the
economy that accommodate the claimant’s residual
functional capacity (determined at step four) and vocational
profile.” Id. If it is determined that a
claimant is or is not disabled at any point in the evaluation
process, further review is not necessary. Mullis
v. Bowen, 861 F.2d 991, 993 (6th Cir. 1988).
application for disability benefits failed at the fifth step
of the evaluation. At the first step, the ALJ found that
plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
from his alleged onset date of April 20, 2012, and that he
met the insured status requirements of the Social Security
Act through December 31, 2017. PageID.37. At the second step,
the ALJ found that plaintiff had severe impairments of:
“degenerative disc disease/damage, status post C4 to C7
discectomy with fusion; anxiety; depression; adjustment
disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood; somatic
symptom disorder with predominant pain, persistent, severe;
and panic disorder. Id.
third step, the ALJ found that plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled
the requirements of the Listing of Impairments in 20 C.F.R.
Pt. 404, ...