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Norman v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

January 23, 2015

DERRICK L. NORMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

PRESENT: THE HONORABLE LAWRENCE P. ZATKOFF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

OPINION AND ORDER AT A SESSION OF SAID COURT, HELD IN THE UNITED STATES COURTHOUSE, IN THE CITY OF PORT HURON, STATE OF MICHIGAN, ON THE 23RD DAY OF JANUARY, 2015

LAWRENCE P. ZATKOFF, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on the parties' cross motions for summary judgment with respect to Defendant's decision to deny Plaintiff's application for Disability Insurance Benefits. The Court is also in receipt of Magistrate Judge Patricia Morris' Report and Recommendation, wherein the Magistrate Judge recommends that Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment be denied and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment be granted. After a thorough review of the court file, the Report and Recommendation, the objections to the Report and Recommendation filed by Plaintiff, and Defendant's response to Plaintiff's objections to the Report and Recommendation, this Court:

A. Adopts Sections II.A.-II.E., Section II.F.1, and Sections II.F.2.a. and II.F.2.b. of the Report and Recommendation and incorporates by reference into this Opinion those portions of the Report and Recommendation;
B. Declines to adopt the balance of the Report and Recommendation; and
C. For the reasons that follow, concludes that this matter must be remanded to Defendant for further proceedings in accord with this Opinion.

II. ANALYSIS

Plaintiff contends that substantial evidence fails to support the findings of the Defendant with respect to the treating source opinions of Dr. Lakhani and Dr. Austin. Plaintiff also contends that the Defendant failed to properly account for Plaintiff's moderate limitations in concentration, persistence, and pace ("CPP"). Finally, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ's credibility findings as to Plaintiff are not supported by substantial evidence.

A. Treating Physicians

As stated by the Magistrate Judge, in weighing the opinions and medical evidence, an ALJ must consider relevant factors such as the length, nature and extent of the treating relationship, the frequency of examination, the medical specialty of the treating physician, the opinion's evidentiary support, and its consistency with the record as a whole. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(d)(2)-(6). Therefore, a medical opinion of an examining source is entitled to more weight than a non-examining source, and a treating physician's opinion is entitled to more weight than a consultative physician who only examined the claimant one time. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(d)(1)-(2). See also Rogers, 486 F.3d at 242 (stating that the "treating physician rule, " which provides that "greater deference is usually given to the opinions of treating physicians than to those of non-treating physicians, " is a key governing standard in social security cases).

The opinion of a treating physician should be given controlling weight if it is "well supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques" and is "not inconsistent with the other substantial evidence in [the] case record." Wilson, 378 F.3d at 544 (emphasis added); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(d)(2). A physician qualifies as a treating source if the claimant sees the physician "with a frequency consistent with accepted medical practice for the type of treatment and/or evaluation required for [the] medical condition." 20 C.F.R. § 404.1502. "The opinion of a nonexamining physician, on the other hand, is entitled to little weight if it is contrary to the opinion of the claimant's treating physician.'" Adams v. Massanari, 55 Fed.App'x 279, 284 (6th Cir. 2003) (quoting Shelman v. Heckler, 821 F.2d 316, 321 (6th Cir. 1987)).

"Claimants are entitled to receive good reasons for the weight accorded their treating sources independent of their substantive right to receive disability benefits." Smith 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 weight." S.S.R. 96-2p, 1996 WL 374188, at *5 (1996). See also Rogers, 486 F.3d at 242. Finally, "[i]t is well settled that the ultimate issue of disability is reserved to the Commissioner." Kidd v. Comm'r, 283 Fed.App'x 336, 341 (6th Cir. 2008); Gaskin v. Comm'r, 280 Fed.App'x 472, 475-76 (6th Cir. 2008).

In this case, the Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge that there was substantial evidence to support the ALJ not giving the treating physicians' opinions controlling weight. Simply put, there was substantial objective evidence that did not support the opinions of Dr. Lakhani and Dr. Austin - especially as they rendered virtually identical opinions a year apart. Moreover, the Court finds that the ALJ sufficiently ...


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