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Street v. Commissioner of Social Security

March 31, 2010

THOMAS G. STREET, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: District Judge Arthur J. Tarnow

MAGISTRATE JUDGE CHARLES E. BINDER

AMENDED ORDER ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [18], GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [15], DENYING PLAINTIFF'S AMENDED MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [12], and DISMISSING THE CASE

On October 1, 2008, Thomas Street ("Plaintiff") filed suit seeking judicial review of a final decision by which the Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant") disallowed Plaintiff's claims for Social Security benefits. In denying Plaintiff's claims, the Defendant Commissioner considered chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ("COPD") and affective disorders as possible bases of disability. See Tr. at 30, 45-49. Plaintiff's alleged onset date was February 1, 2002.

Pursuant to Local Rule 72.1(b)(3), "all cases seeking review of a denial of social security benefits [are] assigned both to a district judge and a magistrate judge." On March 2, 2010, the Magistrate issued a Report and Recommendation ("R&R") [18] recommending that the Court deny Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [12] and grant Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [15]. On March 16, 2010, Plaintiff filed Objections [19] to the Report and Recommendation. Defendant filed a Response [20] to Plaintiff's Objections on March 30, 2010.

Those filings are now before the Court.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Judicial review of facts found by the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") is limited to an evaluation of whether those findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether the proper legal standards were applied. Key v. Callahan, 109 F.3d 270, 273 (6th Cir. 1997). The Court must examine the administrative record as a whole. Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994). However, the Court does not review the evidence de novo, make credibility determinations, or weigh the evidence. Brainard v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 889 F.2d 679, 681 (6th Cir. 1989). The Court must affirm an ALJ's decision if the findings and inferences reasonably drawn from the record are supported by substantial evidence, even if the record could support a different conclusion. Buxton v. Halter, 246 F.3d 762, 772 (6th Cir. 2001).

Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), a magistrate judge's orders shall not be disturbed unless "found to be clearly erroneous or contrary to law." United States v. Curtis, 237 F.3d 598, 603 (6th Cir. 2001). The "clearly erroneous" standard requires the Court to affirm the Magistrate's decision unless, after reviewing the entirety of the evidence, it "is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." Sandles v. U.S. Marshal's Service, 2007 WL 4374077, 1 (E.D. Mich. 2007) (citing United States v. United States Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948)).

This Court reviews de novo any objections to a Magistrate's Report and Recommendation. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Here, Plaintiff has filed Objections, and the assignments of error are considered below.

II. PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS

In his Objections [19] to the Magistrate's R&R, Plaintiff raises several issues for the Court's de novo review.Specifically, Plaintiff contends that: (1) the Magistrate erroneously found the ALJ's hypothetical was to be consistent with the record evidence regarding Plaintiff's pulmonary limitations; (2) the ALJ erred in finding that Plaintiff failed to establish that certain symptoms constituted severe impairments for twelve continuous months; (3) the Magistrate did not address the ALJ's disregard of evidence that Plaintiff suffers from mental disorders; (4) the ALJ's decision is superficial and fails to engage all relevant evidence; (5) the Magistrate did not address the ALJ's failure to make a proper determination regarding Plaintiff's credibility; and (6) the Magistrate erroneously held that the ALJ reasonably inquired as to any conflicts between the testimony of the vocational expert ("VE") and the Dictionary of Occupations ("DOT").

In Response [20], Defendant argues that Plaintiff's objections simply restate the same arguments presented to the Magistrate at the summary judgment stage. Suggesting that Plaintiff "simply desires a second bite at the apple," Defendant urges the Court to adopt the R&R.

I. Sufficiency of the Hypothetical

Plaintiff objects that the Magistrate erred in finding that the ALJ posed an accurate and sufficient hypothetical to the Vocational Expert. See Obj. at 1. Specifically, Plaintiff ...


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