Rodriguez v. Social Security
ORDER accepting 17 Report and Recommendation on 12 Motion for Summary Judgment, 15 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by District Judge George Caram Steeh. (MBea)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 16-CV-11294
HON. GEORGE CARAM STEEH
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL
ORDER ACCEPTING MAGISTRATE
JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [DOC. 17]
Plaintiff Miguel Rodriguez filed an application for disability insurance
benefits (DIB) in May 2013. He has past work experience as a machine
operator, a hand packager, and an industrial truck operator. Plaintiff
claims to be disabled by two knee replacements and asthma. The ALJ
found that plaintiff was not disabled on March 12, 2015, after holding a
hearing during which plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) testified. The
Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ’s decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff timely filed for judicial review.
Both parties filed motions for summary judgment which were referred
to the Magistrate Judge for report and recommendation. On July 31,
2017, the Magistrate Judge issued a report and recommendation
recommending that plaintiff=s motion for summary judgment be denied and
defendant=s motion for summary judgment be granted. An objection to
that report has been filed by plaintiff within the established time period.
The court has reviewed the file, record, and Magistrate Judge's report and
recommendation, and now addresses plaintiff=s objection.
Plaintiff raises one objection to the Magistrate Judge=s
recommendation that the ALJ=s finding that plaintiff was not disabled under
the Commissioner=s five-step disability analysis was supported by
substantial evidence. The objection focuses on the step four consideration
whether plaintiff was capable of performing past relevant work as a
machine operator, hand packager, and industrial truck operator.
claimant seeking DIB may not be found to be disabled if they are able to
perform their past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 1520(e). Pursuant to SSR
82-61, “past relevant work” includes either the actual functional demands
and duties of a past job, or the functional demands and job duties of the
occupation as it is generally performed in the national economy. An ALJ
may rely on the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) descriptions, “for
jobs that are listed in the DOT – to define the job as it is usually performed
in the national economy.” SSR 82-61, 1982 WL 31387 (Jan. 1, 1982)
(emphasis in original).
The Magistrate Judge found, and the parties agree, that the ALJ
erred at step four. Specifically, the ALJ’s residual functional capacity
(RFC) assessment included both environmental and exertion limitations,
but the VE only addressed the exertion limitations in opining that plaintiff
could do the job as defined in the DOT. In spite of the fact that the VE did
not consider the environmental limitation in the RFC, the ALJ found that the
VE’s testimony supported her conclusion that the plaintiff could perform his
past relevant work.
The Magistrate Judge ultimately concluded that the ALJ’s error was
harmless. Plaintiff objects to the fact that the Magistrate “conducted an
independent review of the actual provisions of the DOT, to determine in the
first instance whether those environmental limitations would affect plaintiff’s
ability to do these jobs as generally peformed .” (Doc. 18 at 4). Plaintiff
contends that the relevant portions of the DOT were not made a part of the
record and therefore should not have been reviewed by the Magistrate.
Contrary to plaintiff’s characterization, the relevant DOT positions
were testified to by the VE and were listed by the ALJ in the section of her
decision addressing the step four analysis. The ALJ does not need to rely
on VE testimony for the step four analysis. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1560(b)(2). The DOT description of machine operator defines the job
as having no exposure to environmental conditions. This description
provides an independent basis for the ALJ to conclude that plaintiff could
perform that job with his RFC. The Magistrate Judge did not exceed her
authority in considering this evidence. The court finds that the Magistrate
Judge properly concluded that remand in this case would be futile.
Rabbers v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 582 F.3d 647, 654 (6th Cir. 2009)
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Magistrate Judge's report and
recommendation is accepted.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that judgment enter for defendant.
Dated: September 14, 2017
s/George Caram Steeh
GEORGE CARAM STEEH
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
Copies of this Order were served upon attorneys of record on
September 14, 2017, by electronic and/or ordinary mail.
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?