United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
Elizabeth A. Stafford U.S. Magistrate Judge.
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT & RECOMMENDATION ;
OVERRULING PLAINTIFF’S OBJECTIONS ; DENYING
PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ; AND
GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
J. Tarnow Senior U.S. District Judge.
Cynthia Jean Bjornson, applied for disability insurance
benefits from the Social Security Administration on February
17, 2016. She alleged that she had been disabled since
November 30, 2015. Her claims were denied, and she then
requested and received a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”). The hearing was held on November
1, 2017, in Oak Park, Michigan, before ALJ Patricia S. McKay.
On May 8, 2018, the ALJ issued an opinion denying
Plaintiff’s claims. [Dkt. # 7-2]. The Appeals Council
denied her request for review on August 14, 2018. Plaintiff
timely filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 405 on September 6,
2018. [Dkt. # 1].
case was assigned to Magistrate Judge Elizabeth A. Stafford
for determination of non-dispositive motions pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and issuance of a Report and
Recommendation (“R&R”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(B) & (C). [Dkt. # 3]. Plaintiff filed
her Motion for Summary Judgment  on December 10, 2018.
Defendant filed his Motion for Summary Judgment  on
January 14, 2019. On July 31, 2019, the Magistrate Judge
issued an R&R  recommending that Defendant’s
motion be granted, and Plaintiff’s motion be denied.
Plaintiff filed timely Objections  on August 19, 2019.
Defendant filed his Response  on August 30, 2019.
reasons stated below, the Court OVERRULES
the Plaintiff’s Objections  and
ADOPTS the R&R . Plaintiff’s
Motion for Summary Judgment  is DENIED.
Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment  is
Magistrate Judge summarized the factual background of
Plaintiff’s alleged disability and claim as follows:
A. Bjornson’s Background and Disability
Born July 24, 1959, Bjornson was 56 years old when she
submitted her application for disability benefits in February
2016. [ECF No. 7-5, Tr. 158]. She has past relevant work
experience as an elementary school teacher. [ECF No. 7-2, Tr.
24]. Bjornson alleged a disability onset date of November 30,
2015. [ECF No. 7-2, Tr. 17, 38]. She claims to be disabled
because of stage III breast cancer, physical complication from
cancer treatment, cognitive complications from cancer
treatment, fatigue, nausea and depression. [ECF No. 7-3, Tr.
70]. Bjornson’s last insured date was December 31,
2019. [ECF No. 7-6, Tr. 175].
After a hearing on November 1, 2017, during which Bjornson
and a vocational expert (VE) testified, the ALJ found that
Bjornson was not disabled. [ECF No. 7-2, Tr. 25, 30-68]. The
Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ’s
decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
[Id., Tr. 1-3]. Bjornson timely filed for judicial
review. [ECF No. 1].
B. The ALJ’s Application of the Disability
A “disability” is the “inability to engage
in any 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
12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
The Commissioner determines whether an applicant is disabled
by analyzing five sequential steps. First, if the applicant
is “doing substantial gainful activity, ” he or
she will be found not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4). Second, if the claimant has not had a severe
impairment or a combination of such impairments for a continuous
period of at least 12 months, no disability will be found.
Id. Third, if the claimant’s severe
impairments meet or equal the criteria of an impairment set
forth in the Commissioner’s Listing of Impairments, the
claimant will be found disabled. Id. If the fourth
step is reached, the Commissioner considers its assessment of
the claimant’s residual functional capacity (RFC), and
will find the claimant not disabled if he or she can still do
past relevant work. Id. At the final step, the
Commissioner reviews the claimant’s RFC, age, education
and work experiences, and determines whether the claimant
could adjust to other work. Id. The claimant bears
the burden of proof throughout the first four steps, but the
burden shifts to the Commissioner if the fifth step is
reached. Preslar v. Sec’y of Health & Human
Servs., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994).
Applying this framework, the ALJ concluded that Bjornson was
not disabled. At the first step, she found that Bjornson had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November
30, 2015. [ECF No. 7-2, Tr. 17]. At the second step, she
found that Bjornson had the severe impairments of
“invasive ductal carcinoma of right breast with
metastasis to axillary lymph nodes and degenerative joint
disease of the knees, multilevel spine, right shoulder and
feet.” [Id., Tr. 18]. Next, the ALJ concluded