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Johnson v. Astrue

May 19, 2008

VICTOR W. JOHNSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas W. Phillips United States District Judge

Phillips/Guyton

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This is a civil action for judicial review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), of defendant Commissioner's final decision denying plaintiff's claim for disability benefits under the Social Security Act. On February 28, 2008, the Honorable H. Bruce Guyton, United States Magistrate Judge, entered a nine-page report and recommendation ("R&R") [Doc. 17], in which he recommended to this court that plaintiff's motion for summary judgment [Doc. 10] be denied and that the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment [Doc. 14] be granted.

The matter is now before the court on plaintiff's timely objections to the R&R [Doc. 19]. As required by 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b), the court has undertaken a de novo review of those portions of the R&R to which plaintiff objects. Having reviewed the record, the court finds plaintiff's objections to be well taken. There is not, however, substantial evidence in the record such that this court may grant plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. Accordingly, the action will be remanded to the Commissioner for further proceedings.

I. BACKGROUND

On April 30, 2001, plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act.After his claim was denied both initially and upon reconsideration, plaintiff was granted an administrative hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). On June 3, 2003, the ALJ denied the claim; the Appeals Council vacated that decision and remanded the claim for a new hearing. After a rehearing on February 23, 2005, the ALJ again denied the claim, which decision was upheld by the Appeals Council on December 8, 2006. Having exhausted his administrative remedies, plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision to this court.

Plaintiff claims disability based on chronic kidney stones, asthma, syncope, hypoglycemia, hypothyroidism, chest pain, and high cholesterol. Having engaged in the mandated five-step evaluation, the ALJ determined that although plaintiff's impairments were severe and he was unable to perform any of his past relevant work, he had the residual functioning capacity to perform light work. The ALJ suggested several jobs in the national economy which would accommodate plaintiff's residual functioning capacity and other extertional limitations. Accordingly, the ALJ denied his claim for disability.

The matter is now before this court on Judge Guyton's R&R, recommending that plaintiff's motion for summary judgment be denied and Commissioner's motion for summary judgment be granted.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

An ALJ evaluates a claim for disability using a five-step evaluation rubric.

First, the claimant must demonstrate that he has not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the period of disability. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i). Second, the claimant must show that he suffers from a severe medically determinable physical or mental impairment. Id. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii). Third, if the claimant shows that his impairment meets or medically equals one of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, he is deemed disabled. Id. § 505.1520(a)(4)(iii). Fourth, the ALJ determines, whether, based on the claimant's residual functional capacity, the claimant can perform his past relevant work, in which case the claimant is not disabled. Id. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv). Fifth, the ALJ determines whether, based on the claimant's residual functional capacity, as well as his age, education, and work experience, the claimant can make an adjustment to other work, in which case the claimant is not disabled. Id. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v).

The claimant bears the burden of proof during the first four steps, but the burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five.

Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 378 F.3d 541, 548 (6th Cir. 2004).

If the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence based upon the record as a whole, they are conclusive and must be affirmed, even if there is substantial evidence that would support a different conclusion. E.g., Warner v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 375 F.3d 387, 390 (6th Cir. 2004). "Substantial evidence exists when a 'reasonable mind might accept' the relevant evidence 'as adequate to support a conclusion.' " Id. (quoting ...


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