Vance v. Social Security
MEMORANDUM OPINION and ORDER re 14 MOTION for Summary Judgment , 10 MOTION for Summary Judgment . Signed by Magistrate Judge Patricia T. Morris. (KCas)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:16-cv-13542-PTM
MAGISTRATE JUDGE PATRICIA T. MORRIS
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
MAGISTRATE JUDGE’S OPINION AND ORDER ON CROSS MOTIONS FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Docs. 10, 14)
Introduction and Procedural History
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), E.D. Mich. LR 72.1(b)(3), and by Notice of
Reference, this case was referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for the purpose of
reviewing a final decision by the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”)
denying Plaintiff Colette Vance’s (“Vance”) claim for a period of disability, Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act 42 U.S.C. § 401 et
seq., and Supplemental Security Income Benefits (“SSI”) under Title XVI, 42 U.S.C. §
1381 et seq. (Doc. 2). The matter is currently before the Court on cross-motions for
summary judgment. (Docs. 10, 14).
On May 13, 2014, Vance filed concurrent applications for DIB and SSI, alleging a
disability onset date of January 1, 2011. (Tr. 121-33). She later amended this date to August
7, 2014. (Tr. 25). The Commissioner denied her claims. (Tr. 45-70). Vance then requested
a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), which occurred on December 9,
2015 before ALJ Jerome B. Blum. (Tr. 23-44). The ALJ’s written decision, issued February
3, 2016, found Vance not disabled. (Tr. 9-22). On September 13, 2016, the Appeals Council
denied review, (Tr. 1-4), and Vance filed for judicial review of that final decision on
October 3, 2016. (Doc. 1).
Standard of Review
The district court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner’s final administrative
decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The district court’s review is restricted solely to
determining whether the “Commissioner has failed to apply the correct legal standard or
has made findings of fact unsupported by substantial evidence in the record.” Sullivan v.
Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 595 F App’x. 502, 506 (6th Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks
omitted). 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.” Rogers v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007)
(internal quotation marks omitted).
The Court must examine the administrative record as a whole, and may consider
any evidence in the record, regardless of whether it has been cited by the ALJ. See Walker
v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 884 F.2d 241, 245 (6th Cir. 1989). The Court will not
“try the case de novo, nor resolve conflicts in the evidence, nor decide questions of
credibility.” Cutlip v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994).
If the Commissioner’s decision is supported by substantial evidence, “it must be affirmed
even if the reviewing court would decide the matter differently and even if substantial
evidence also supports the opposite conclusion.” Id. at 286 (internal citations omitted).
Framework for Disability Determinations
Under the Act, “DIB and SSI are available only for those who have a ‘disability.’”
Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007). “Disability” means 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 [twelve]
42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A) (DIB); 20 C.F.R. § 416.905(a) (SSI). The
Commissioner’s regulations provide that disability is to be determined through the
application of a five-step sequential analysis:
Step One: If the claimant is currently engaged in substantial
gainful activity, benefits are denied without further analysis.
Step Two: If the claimant does not have a severe impairment
or combination of impairments that “significantly limits . . .
physical or mental ability to do basic work activities,” benefits
are denied without further analysis.
Step Three: If the claimant is not performing substantial
gainful activity, has a severe impairment that is expected to last
for at least twelve months, and the severe impairment meets or
equals one of the impairments listed in the regulations, the
claimant is conclusively presumed to be disabled regardless of
age, education or work experience.
Step Four: If the claimant is able to perform his or her past
relevant work, benefits are denied without further analysis.
Step Five: Even if the claimant is unable to perform his or her
past relevant work, if other work exists in the national economy
that plaintiff can perform, in view of his or her age, education,
and work experience, benefits are denied.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. See also Heston v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 245 F.3d 528,
534 (6th Cir. 2001). “Through step four, the claimant bears the burden of proving the
existence and severity of limitations caused by [his or] her impairments and the fact that
she is precluded from performing [his or] her past relevant work.” Jones v. Comm’r of Soc.
Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003). The burden transfers to the Commissioner if the
analysis reaches the fifth step without a finding that the claimant is not disabled. Combs v.
Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 459 F.3d 640, 643 (6th Cir. 2006). At the fifth step, the Commissioner
is required to show that “other jobs in significant numbers exist in the national economy
that [the claimant] could perform given [his or] her RFC [residual functional capacity] and
considering relevant vocational factors.” Rogers, 486 F.3d at 241 (citing 20 C.F.R. §§
Under the authority of the Social Security Act, the SSA has promulgated regulations
that provide for the payment of disabled child’s insurance benefits if the claimant is at least
eighteen years old and has a disability that began before age twenty-two. 20 C.F.R.
404.350(a) (5) (2013). A claimant must establish a medically determinable physical or
mental impairment (expected to last at least twelve months or result in death) that rendered
her unable to engage in substantial gainful activity. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The
regulations provide a five-step sequential evaluation for evaluating disability claims. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520.
Following the five-step sequential analysis, the ALJ found Vance not disabled under
the Act. (Tr. 9-22). At Step One, the ALJ found that Vance had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since she filed her claims on May 13, 2014. (Tr. 14). At Step Two, the ALJ
concluded that the following impairments qualified as severe: history of pericarditis and
hypertension. (Tr. 14-15). The ALJ also decided, however, that none of these met or
medically equaled a listed impairment at Step Three. (Tr. 15). Thereafter, the ALJ found
that Vance had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform “the full range” of light
work. (Tr. 16). At Step Four, the ALJ found Vance capable of performing her past relevant
work as a security guard. (Tr. 18). Having so found, the ALJ declined to proceed to Step
The Court has reviewed Vance’s medical record. In lieu of summarizing her medical
history here, the Court will make references and provide citations to the record as necessary
in its discussion of the parties’ arguments.
Application Reports and Administrative Hearing
On June 18, 2015, Vance filled out a Function Report which appears in the
administrative record. Describing her conditions, she noted “headaches” that “caused me
to lose several jobs” because “I snap,” as well as “a heart disease called Pericarditis” that
causes her “heart” to “hurt all the time.” (Tr. 207). She also suffered from “muscular soft
tissue injury throughout my cervical, thoracic, [and] lumbar area which catches cold and
causes severe back pain,” as well as temporomandibular joint dysfunction “which causes
pressure headaches [and] effect[s] my ability to see.” (Id.). These conditions caused
sleeping problems. (Tr. 209). “The illness has caused me to get tired very fast. I’m tired all
the time. I use[d] to work out every day. The illness has caused me to be mean. Can’t
breathe without having shortness of breath, sit, walk, without stopping every minute. I’m
snapping at people, losing jobs because of the pressure headaches.” (Id.).
In activities of daily living, Vance spent “more than two to three hours” dressing,
bathed “very slowly,” spent “more than [an] hour” caring for her hair, lacked an appetite,
and required “two to three hours” to mount enough energy “to move.” (Id.). In taking the
proper medications on time, she often relied on written reminders. (Tr. 210). She prepared
sandwiches, fruit, vegetables, and milk or juices as a meal three times a week “because I
have no appetite.” (Id.). She performed the chores of ironing and dusting, but nothing else
because “[i]t hurts when I try to sweep [and] mop . . . .” (Id.). Though she had a driver’s
license, she did not drive because “my vision is poor due to my heart [and] lung disease
[and] TMJ pressure headaches.” (Tr. 211). When she went shopping, she looked primarily
for clothing and toiletries. (Id.). She remained able to pay bills, count change, handle a
savings account, and use a checkbook. (Id.). She maintained no hobbies “other than reading
the Bible [and] going to church.” (Tr. 212). Aside from her trips to the chapel, she did not
engage in social activities. (Id.). She required help doing even this when “my pressure
headaches” become “extreme” and “my head feels like it’s getting ready to explode and
it’s hard for me to focus.” (Id.).
Her symptoms stirred her to anger with “anything” and “anybody,” and “caused me
to become depressed . . . .” (Tr. 213). Prompted to mark abilities with which she struggled,
she marked: lifting, squatting, bending, standing, reaching, walking, sitting, kneeling, stair
climbing, seeing, memory, completing tasks, concentration, understanding, following
instructions, using hands, and getting along with others. (Id.). These activities, she
suggested, put “strain on my heart [and back] muscles.” (Id.). She struggled paying
attention and following instructions as well. (Id.). She had “a hard time with authority
figures,” and could not cope with stress. (Tr. 214).
Vance’s Testimony at the Administrative Hearing
Vance opened her testimony by amending her alleged onset date to August 7, 2014.
(Tr. 25-26). She noted her past work as a security guard from 1999 to 2001, which ended
because “they started downsizing. And I was the last to get hired, and one of the first to get
laid off.” (Tr. 27). Since then, she had not worked at any job for more than a year. (Id.).
The security job required her to sit, stand, walk, and sit, and partly for this reason she
indicated she could no longer perform the work. (Tr. 27-28). In addition, she noted “I suffer
a condition . . . . called severe anxiety and depressions. And the doctors are thinking about
getting a MRI for me because I have constant pressure in my head, . . .” (Tr. 28). “It never
goes away.” (Id.). She relayed her psychiatrist’s diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder,
as well as her “tendency to snap” and “just go off.” (Tr. 28-29).
She then discussed in episode in 2008 where “I almost died” due to “inflammation
on my lungs and my heart,” a condition for which she “was hospitalized for about a week
at Receiving Hospital. That’s when the doctors actually told me that I cannot be around
people.” (Tr. 30). For this reason, she claimed a need for an office environment, and her
security job provided this for her—but at the time of the hearing she could “[n]ot” do that
work full time because “I have a short temper and I have a tendency to get into fights and
get fired.” (Tr. 31). Vance thereafter provided an overview of her medications for the ALJ.
In relation to her treatment at “Team Mental Health or Team Wellness as they’re
calling it now,” Vance said “[t]hey’re working on my severe depression and anxiety.
Working on my insomnia. They’re working on my stress because . . . I’m completely
stressed. They’re working on issues that’s dealing with my getting along with people
because I have a tendency not to get along. I have a short temper and also, I have a hard
time focusing and concentrating. And I have short-term memory, as well.” (Tr. 34). Vance
confessed to crying “[o]ften” depending “on the situation that I’m going through,” as well
as to living “in a shelter around a bunch of people.” (Tr. 36). Another symptom she suffered
was misanthropy, to which she largely attributed her temper. (Tr. 36-38).
The VE’s Testimony at the Administrative Hearing
The ALJ first asked the VE to classify Vance’s past work as a security guard. (Tr.
42). The VE indicated that it was “light and semi-skilled.” (Id.). There existed 24,000 local
job availabilities and 900,000 national job availabilities for such work. The ALJ proceeded:
“If we were to assume that she only can work indoors in such a position in employment,
she has a number of problems we’ve heard today. She has significant psychiatric problems
that she’s explained. And pain in her knees. She has problems around her heart, she says
give her chest pain, shortness of breath. And she suffers from depression, stress, anxiety,
which causes her to have difficulty relating to people working on a full-time job making
decisions in a job such as security guard. Would she be able to go back to that job?” (Tr.
42-43). The VE said that she could not return to her job under those circumstances. (Tr.
The ALJ must “consider all evidence” in the record when making a disability
decision. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(5)(B). The regulations carve the evidence into various
categories, “acceptable medical sources” and “other sources.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1513.
“Acceptable medical sources” include, among others, licensed physicians and licensed or
certified psychologists. Id. § 404.1513(a). “Other sources” include medical sources who
are not “acceptable” and almost any other individual able to provide relevant evidence. Id.
§ 404.1513(d). Only “acceptable medical sources” can establish the existence of an
impairment. SSR 06-03p, 2006 WL 2329939, at *2 (Aug. 9, 2006). Both
and non-acceptable sources provide evidence to the Commissioner, often in the form of
opinions “about the nature and severity of an individual’s impairment(s), including
symptoms, diagnosis and prognosis, what the individual can still do despite the
impairment(s), and physical and mental restrictions.” Id.. When “acceptable medical
sources” issue such opinions, the regulations deem the statements to be “medical opinions”
subject to a multi-factor test that weighs their value. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527. Excluded from
the definition of “medical opinions” are various decisions reserved to the Commissioner,
such as whether the claimant meets the statutory definition of disability and how to measure
his or her RFC. Id. § 404.1527(d).
The ALJ must use a six-factor balancing test to determine the probative value of
medical opinions from acceptable sources. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c). The test looks at
whether the source examined the claimant, “the length of the treatment relationship and the
frequency of examination, the nature and extent of the treatment relationship,
supportability of the opinion, consistency of the opinion with the record as a whole, and
specialization of the treating source.” Wilson v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 378 F.3d 541, 544
(6th Cir. 2004); see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c). ALJs must also apply those factors to
“other source” opinions. See Cruse v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 502 F.3d 532, 540-42 (6th Cir.
2007); SSR 06-03p, 2006 WL 2329939, at *2 (Aug. 9, 2006).
Certain opinions of a treating physician, in contrast, receive controlling weight if
they are “well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic
techniques” and are “not inconsistent with the other substantial evidence in [the] case
record.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(d)(2); see also Wilson, 378 F.3d at 544. The only opinions
entitled to dispositive effect deal with the nature and severity of the claimant’s
impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(d); SSR 96-2p, 1996 WL 374188, at *1-2 (July 2,
1996). Therefore, the ALJ does not owe a treating opinion deference on matters reserved
to the Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(d); SSR 96-2p, 1996 WL 374188, at *1-2 (July
2, 1996). The ALJ “will not give any special significance to the source of an opinion”
regarding whether a person is disabled or unable to work, whether an impairment meets or
equals a Listing, the individual’s RFC, and the application of vocational factors. 20 C.F.R.
The regulations mandate that the ALJ provide “good reasons” for the weight
assigned to the treating source’s opinion in the written determination. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1527(c)(2); see also Dakroub v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 482 F.3d 873, 875 (6th Cir.
2007). Therefore, a decision denying benefits
must contain specific reasons for the weight given to the treating source’s
medical opinion, supported by the evidence in the case record, and must be
sufficiently specific to make clear to any subsequent reviewers the weight
the adjudicator gave to the treating source’s opinion and the reasons for that
SSR 96-2p, 1996 WL 374188, at *5 (July 2, 1996); see also Rogers, 486 F.3d at 242. For
example, an ALJ may properly reject a treating source opinion if it lacks supporting
objective evidence. Revels v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 882 F. Supp. 637, 640-41
(E.D. Mich. 1994), aff’d, 51 F.3d 273 (Table), 1995 WL 138930, at *1 (6th Cir. 1995).
An ALJ must analyze the credibility of the claimant, considering the claimant’s
statements about pain or other symptoms with the rest of the relevant evidence in the record
and factors outlined in Social Security Ruling 96-7p, 1996 WL 374186 (July 2, 1996).
Credibility determinations regarding a claimant’s subjective complaints rest with the ALJ.
See Siterlet v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 823 F.2d 918, 920 (6th Cir. 1987).
Generally, an ALJ’s credibility assessment can be disturbed only for a “compelling
reason.” Sims v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 406 F. App’x 977, 981 (6th Cir. 2011); Warner v.
Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 375 F.3d 387, 390 (6th Cir. 2004).
The Social Security regulations establish a two-step process for evaluating
subjective symptoms, including pain. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1529; SSR 96-7p, 1996 WL 374186,
at *2 (July 2, 1996). The ALJ evaluates complaints of disabling pain by confirming that
objective medical evidence of the underlying condition exists. The ALJ then determines
whether that condition could reasonably be expected to produce the alleged pain or whether
other objective evidence verifies the severity of the pain. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1529; SSR
96-7p, 1996 WL 374186, at *2 (July 2, 1996); Stanley v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs.,
39 F.3d 115, 117 (6th Cir. 1994). The ALJ ascertains the extent of the work-related
limitations by determining the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of the claimant’s
symptoms. SSR 96-7p, 1996 WL 374186, at *2 (July 2, 1996).
While “objective evidence of the pain itself” is not required, Duncan v. Sec’y of
Health & Human Servs., 801 F.2d 847, 853 (6th Cir. 1986) (quoting Green v. Schweiker,
749 F.2d 1066, 1071 (3d Cir. 1984)) (internal quotation marks omitted), a claimant’s
description of his or her physical or mental impairments alone is “not enough to establish
the existence of a physical or mental impairment,” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1528(a). Nonetheless,
the ALJ may not disregard the claimant’s subjective complaints about the severity and
persistence of the pain simply because they lack substantiating objective evidence. SSR
96-7p, 1996 WL 374186, at *1 (July 2, 1996). Instead, the absence of objective confirming
evidence forces the ALJ to consider the following factors:
The location, duration, frequency, and intensity of . . . pain;
Precipitating and aggravating factors;
The type, dosage, effectiveness, and side effects of any medication .
. . taken to alleviate . . . pain or other symptoms;
(v) Treatment, other than medication, . . . received for relief of . . . pain;
(vi) Any measures . . . used to relieve . . . pain.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1529(c)(3), 416.929(c)(3); see also Felisky v. Bowen, 35 F.3d 1027,
1039-40 (6th Cir. 1994); SSR 96-7p, 1996 WL 374186, at *3 (July 2, 1996). Furthermore,
the claimant’s work history and the consistency of his or her subjective statements are also
relevant. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c); SSR 96-7p, 1996 WL 374186, at *5 (July 2, 1996).
The claimant must provide evidence establishing her RFC. The statute lays the
groundwork for this, stating, “An individual shall not be considered to be under a disability
unless he [or she] furnishes such medical and other evidence of the existence thereof as the
Secretary may require.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(5)(A); see also Bowen, 482 U.S. at 146 n.5.
The RFC “is the most he [or she] can still do despite his [or her] limitations,” and is
measured using “all the relevant evidence in [the] case record.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(2).
A hypothetical question to the VE is valid if it includes all credible limitations developed
prior to Step Five. Casey v. Sec. of Health & Human Servs., 987 F.2d 1230, 1235 (6th Cir.
1993); Donald v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., No. 08-14784-BC, 2009 WL 4730453, at *7 (E.D.
Mich. Dec. 9, 2009).
Vance offers three prime arguments in her appeal to this Court: (1) the ALJ failed
to incorporate any mental limitations into his RFC, (Doc. 10 at ID 498); (2) the ALJ failed
to find that she suffered from a ‘severe’ mental impairment “despite significant psychiatric
treatment records documenting the contrary,” (Id.); and (3) the ALJ inadequately evaluated
her credibility. I address each argument in turn.
The Omission of Mental Limitations from the RFC
Vance argues that the ALJ erred in failing to incorporate any mental limitations into
his RFC determination. This omission, she suggests, “is not supported by substantial
evidence because the ALJ failed to acknowledge extensive psychiatric treatment records
spanning August 7, 2014 through August 10, 2015 and totaling 185 pages . . . .” (Doc. 10
at ID 506). She also supposes that the ALJ “mischaracterized the record” in saying the
claimant “‘received little mental health treatment . . . .’” (Doc. 10 at ID 504) (quoting (Tr.
17)). In actuality, the ALJ did acknowledge, cite, and discuss the treatment records at issue.
(Tr. 17) (describing Vance’s statements as represented in her Team Wellness records,
contrasting these allegations with Dr. Moten’s and Dr. Hayter’s psychological evaluations,
and observing that “[h]er treatment is related to life stressors including the loss of her job
and home eviction.”); see, e.g., (Tr. 268-69) (noting Vance’s goal of securing permanent
housing and recovering from her eviction).
Though Vance might take issue with the ALJ’s statement that she received “little”
mental health treatment, (Tr. 17), I do not find it so objectionable—in context, it refers to
the conservative treatment schedule Vance pursued and the relative scarcity of evidence
supporting the claimed severity of her mental impairments. E.g., (Tr. 265, 318)
(independence in activities of daily living); (Tr. 273, 287, 335, 383, 402, 415) (denoting a
monthly appointment schedule); (Tr. 266-67, 333, 335, 405, 413) (calm or pleasant
demeanor); cf. Gaines v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., No. 1:16-CV-12793, 2017 WL 2129686, at
*12 (E.D. Mich. Apr. 25, 2017), report and recommendation adopted sub nom. Gaines v.
Soc. Sec., Comm’r of, No. 16-CV-12793, 2017 WL 2117990 (E.D. Mich. May 16, 2017)
(“I cannot divorce the context surrounding the ALJ’s language . . . from the language
itself.”). Even assuming the ALJ’s language was ambiguous or misleading—and therefore,
error—such error would be harmless because the ALJ’s overall opinion plainly illustrates
his consideration of Vance’s mental health records. Hall v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 148 F.
App’x 456, 464 (6th Cir. 2005) (harmless error where an ALJ’s opinion indirectly fills any
gaps left by a technical lack of clarity). Moreover, although Vance points to evidence in
her favor—such as a number of mental diagnoses, (Doc. 10 at ID 504) (citing (Tr. 270,
411)), and two low GAF scores, (Doc. 10 at ID 505) (citing (Tr. 271, 411))—the ALJ does
too, and the conclusions he reaches lie well within the “‘zone of choice’” provided those
in his particular position. Blakley v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 581 F.3d 399, 406 (6th Cir. 2009)
(quoting Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986)).
In short, substantial evidence undergirds the ALJ’s decision to exclude mental
health limitations from his RFC, and Vance cannot prevail on this ground.
The ALJ’s Step Two Findings
Vance also argues that the ALJ erred in failing to consider any of her mental
impairments ‘severe’ at Step Two. She contends that her mental health records handily
show that her mental impairments have more than a minimal effect on her ability to do
basic work activities, and that because the ALJ “failed to acknowledge” these records,
remand is required. (Doc. 10 at ID 503).
“Great care should be exercised in applying the not severe impairment concept,”
and an adjudicator who finds at least one severe impairment should continue the sequential
evaluation process. SSR 85-28, 1985 WL 56856, at *4 (S.S.A. Jan. 1, 1985). Where an
ALJ finds at least one severe impairment and considers a claimant’s “severe and nonsevere
impairments in the remaining steps of the sequential analysis,” however, “[t]he fact that
some of [the claimant’s] impairments were not deemed to be severe at step two is legally
irrelevant.” Anthony v. Astrue, 266 F. App’x 451, 457 (6th Cir. 2008); accord, e.g.,
Albertson v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., No. 15-12160, 2016 WL 5661590, at *5 (E.D. Mich.
Sept. 30, 2016) (“A step two omission is of ‘little consequence,’ provided that the ALJ
considered’ all impairments, severe and nonsevere,’ in crafting the RFC.” (quoting Pompa
v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 73 F. App’x 801, 803 (6th Cir. 2003))); Williams v. Comm’r of
Soc. Sec., No. 14013677, 2015 WL 5719676, at *3 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 30, 2015) (invoking
this principle). As discussed at some length above, the ALJ considered each of Vance’s
nonsevere impairments in explaining his RFC determination; thus, the ALJ’s failure to find
any of her mental impairments severe is not error and cannot undermine the ALJ’s decision.
For this reason, Vance’s Step-Two argument lacks merit.
The ALJ’s Credibility Determination
In attacking the ALJ’s credibility determination, Vance reiterates her criticism that
the ALJ ignored and mischaracterized her mental health records, this time averring that
such error deprives his credibility determination of evidentiary support. (Doc. 10 at ID
507). In particular, Vance again highlights the ALJ’s statement that she “received little
mental health treatment” as problematic. (Id.) (quoting (Tr. 17)). But as discussed above,
Vance’s objection takes the ALJ’s language out of context, and evades mention of other
factors which clearly factored into the ALJ’s rationale, such as Vance’s focus on “life
stressors including the loss of her job and home eviction,” the lack of “exacerbation or
required hospitalization,” and the paucity of evidence corroborating her testimony. (Tr.
17). The record validates his circumspection. See, e.g., (Tr. 268-89, 284, 340) (noting
Vance’s goal was to recover from her eviction and homelessness). Compare (Tr. 209)
(describing a habit of taking two to three hours to bathe herself, an hour to care for her hair,
and two to three hours to gather enough energy simply to move), with (Tr. 265, 318)
(independence in activities of daily living). Indeed, contrary to Vance’s repeated gripe that
the ALJ “failed to make one citation to any of [her] psychiatric treatment records in his
decision denying benefits,” (Doc. 10 at ID 507), the ALJ devoted an entire page of his
decision to weighing the mental health evidence available, (Tr. 17). Substantial evidence
supports his credibility determination.
For the reasons stated above, the Court finds that the ALJ’s decision is supported
by substantial evidence.
In light of the above findings, IT IS ORDERED that Vance’s Motion for Summary
Judgment, (Doc. 10), is DENIED, the Commissioner’s Motion for Summary Judgment,
(Doc. 14), is GRANTED, and this case is AFFIRMED.
s/ Patricia T. Morris
Patricia T. Morris
United States Magistrate Judge
Date: June 26, 2017
I hereby certify that the foregoing document was electronically filed this date
through the Court’s CM/ECF system which delivers a copy to all counsel of record.
Date: June 26, 2017
By s/Kristen Castaneda
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?