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Gould v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division

February 4, 2015

Andrew Lamar Gould, Plaintiff,
v.
Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

Mag. Judge Mona K. Majzoub

OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF’S [16] OBJECTIONS, ADOPTING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE’S [14] REPORT & RECOMMENDATION, DENYING PLAINTIFF’S [10] MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, AND GRANTING DEFENDANT’S [13] MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

JUDITH E. LEVY, United States District Judge

This is an appeal from a denial of Social Security disability benefits. Before the Court are the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment. Magistrate Judge Majzoub filed a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) on May 14, 2015, in which she recommends granting the Commissioner of Social Security’s motion for summary judgment and denying plaintiff Andrew Lamar Gould’s motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. 14.) Gould timely filed objections to the R&R on May 19, 2014. (Dkt. 16.) For the reasons discussed below, the Court will deny Gould’s objections, adopt the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation, deny Gould’s motion for summary judgment, and grant the Commissioner’s motion for summary judgment.

I. Factual background

The Magistrate Judge adequately recounted the relevant facts and procedural history. Her findings are incorporated herein.

II. Standard of review

District courts review de novo those portions of a report and recommendation to which a specific objection has been made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). “De novo review in these circumstances entails at least a review of the evidence that faced the magistrate judge; the Court may not act solely on the basis of a report and recommendation.” Spooner v. Jackson, 321 F.Supp.2d 867, 868-69 (E.D. Mich. 2004).

In deciding Social Security appeals, the Court is limited to determining whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards in reaching a decision, and whether the ALJ’s findings are supported by substantial evidence. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir.2007) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). “If the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, we must defer to that decision, even if there is substantial evidence in the record that would have supported an opposite conclusion.” Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

III. Analysis

The ALJ decided to give little weight to the opinion of Gould’s treating physician. The Magistrate Judge found the ALJ’s decision was supported by substantial evidence. Gould objects to that finding, arguing that the Magistrate Judge, and the ALJ, misapplied the treating physician rule. Gould raises no other objections to the R&R.

Under the treating physician rule, if “a treating source's opinion on the issue(s) of the nature and severity of [a claimant’s] impairment(s) is well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent with the other substantial evidence in [the] case record, ” it must be given controlling weight, unless the ALJ gives “good reasons” for not doing so. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2); Gentry v. Comm’r Soc. Security, 714 F.3d 708, 727 (6th Cir. 2014). If the treating source’s opinion is not given controlling weight, the ALJ must apply other factors to determine what weight to give the opinion. Gentry, 714 F.3d at 727.

Here, the ALJ gave little weight to the opinion of Dr. Sajida Mathew, a psychiatrist who treated Gould from December 2008 to March 2011. (Dkt. 7-2, Transcript 19-20 [hereinafter “Tr.”].) The ALJ gave several reasons for this decision; relevant here is the ALJ’s determination that Dr. Mathew’s opinions in a medical source statement (Tr. 403-408) were not consistent with Dr. Mathew’s own treatment notes. (Tr. 20.)

The ALJ noted that Dr. Mathew evaluated Gould on two occasions: once in December 2008 and once in December 2009. (Tr. 19.) Otherwise, Dr Mathew only saw Gould for “brief medication review appointments.” (Id.) Dr. Mathew completed at least part of a medical source statement in March 2011, in which she opined that Gould could not independently, appropriately, or effectively complete a workday without interruption from psychologically based symptoms. (Tr. 403-08.) Dr. Mathew found that Gould was seriously limited with regard to many areas of functioning. The ALJ found Dr. Mathew’s opinion contradicted her own contemporaneous treatment notes, which consistently indicate Gould’s improvement and ...


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