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Monroe v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

May 24, 2013

MINDY MONROE, Plaintiff,


MICHAEL J. NEWMAN, Magistrate Judge.

This is a Social Security disability benefits appeal. At issue is whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") erred in finding Plaintiff not "disabled" and therefore unentitled to Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). This case is before the Court upon Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (doc. 9), the Commissioner's Memorandum in Opposition (doc. 11), Plaintiff's Reply (doc. 12), the administrative record (doc. 6)[2], and the record as a whole.


A. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed her application for DIB on January 31, 2008, asserting that she has been under a "disability" since July 1, 2006.[3] PageID 180-85. Plaintiff claims she is disabled due to Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, anemia, bursitis, fatigue, osteoporosis, and tendonitis. PageID 201.

Following initial administrative denials of her application, Plaintiff received a hearing before ALJ Thomas McNichols, II on October 13, 2010.[4] PageID 76-124. On October 21, 2010, ALJ McNichols issued a written decision, concluding - at Step Five of the five-step sequential disability analysis, see infra - that Plaintiff could perform a limited range of light work[5] and was thus not disabled. PageID 50-65. Specifically, the ALJ's findings, which represent the rationale of his decision, were as follows:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through June 30, 2011;
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 1, 2006, the alleged onset date (20 CFR § 404.1571 et seq. );
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: chronic abdominal pain, attributed to Crohn's disease; a history of rheumatoid arthritis; depression; and anxiety (20 CFR § 404.1520(c));
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526);
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the [ALJ] finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except that she must be free to alternate positions between sitting and standing at 30-minute periods throughout the workday. She can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and she can never push and/or pull with arms fully extended. She can perform work above shoulder level on no more than an occasional basis, and she must avoid all exposure to hazards and vibrations. She can perform no repetitive bending or twisting at the waist, due to abdominal pain, and she requires ready access to restroom facilities (defined as no work with the general public and no assembly line work). She must not be required to maintain concentration on a single task for longer than 15 minutes at a time;
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR § 404.1565);
7. The claimant was born [in] 1978 and was 27 years old, which is defined as a "younger individual age 18-49, " on the alleged disability onset date. (20 CFR § 404.1563);
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR § 404.1564);
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is "not disabled, " whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills ( See SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2);
10. Considering her age, education, work experience, and [RFC], there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20 CFR §§ 404.1569 and 404.1569(a)); [and]
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from July 1, 2006, through the date of this decision (20 CFR § 404.1520(g)).

PageID 52-64.

Thereafter, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's non-disability finding the final administrative decision of the Commissioner. PageID 41-44. See Casey v. Sec'y of H.H.S., 987 F.2d 1230, 1233 (6th Cir. 1993). ...

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