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Keels v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

June 22, 2015

Lashanette J. Keels, Plaintiff,
v.
Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

David R. Grand Magistrate Judge

OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING IN PART AND REJECTING IN PART MAGISTRATE JUDGE’S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION, GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, AND DISMISSING CASE

Sean F. Cox, United States District Judge

Plaintiff brought this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security’s determination that she is not entitled to disability insurance benefits for her physical and mental impairments under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Doc. #1).

Some time thereafter, Plaintiff and Defendant filed cross-motions for summary judgment. (Doc. #11 and Doc. #13). All proceedings in this case were referred to Magistrate Judge David R. Grand pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(A), (B), and (C). (Doc. #3).

On May 18, 2015, Magistrate Judge Grand issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) wherein he recommended that the Court GRANT IN PART and DENY IN PART Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment, DENY Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, and remand the case pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (R&R, Doc. #14). Defendant timely filed objections to the May 18, 2015 R&R, (Def. Objs., Doc. #15), and Plaintiff replied to Defendant’s objections. (Doc. #16).

Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b), a party objecting to the recommended disposition of a matter by a Magistrate Judge must file objections to the R&R within fourteen (14) days after being served with a copy of the R&R. “The district judge must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge’s disposition that has been properly objected to.” Id.

Having considered Defendant’s objections to the R&R, the Court agrees that any error committed by the ALJ in this case is harmless. The Court shall therefore sustain Defendant’s objections, adopt in part and reject in part the R&R, deny Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment, and grant Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment.

ANALYSIS

Plaintiff in this case alleges that she suffers from disabling back and knee pain, as well as depression and headaches. (Tr. 13).

After reviewing the medical evidence, the ALJ assessed Plaintiff as having a Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”) that makes her capable of performing sedentary work with the following exceptions: she can lift and carry ten pounds occasionally; she can sit six hours in an eight-hour workday, and can stand and/or walk two hours in an eight-hour workday; she can occasionally climb, balance, kneel, crouch, and crawl; she can frequently stoop; she is limited to simple, concrete, two to three step routine and repetitive tasks; and she can briefly and superficially interact with others in the workplace. (R&R at 14–15, citing Tr. at 15).

In determining Plaintiff’s RFC, the ALJ afforded “great weight” to the opinion of the state agency medical consultant who opined that Plaintiff could perform work with those restrictions. (Tr. at 17). On the other hand, the ALJ afforded “limited weight” to the opinions of Plaintiff’s internist and occupational medicine physician who found Plaintiff to be “disabled from all occupational and household activities.” (Tr. at 17).

At Step Five of the analysis, based on the testimony of the Vocational Expert (“VE”), the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff’s RFC permits her to perform a number of jobs in the national economy, including assembler (DICOT 739.687-086, 1991 WL 680194), sorter (DICOT 521.687-086, 1991 WL 674226), and packer (DICOT 559.687-014, 1991 WL 683782). Based on the finding that Plaintiff could perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy, the ALJ concluded at Step Five that Plaintiff is not disabled. (Tr. at 19).

In Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff argued, inter alia, that the ALJ erred by failing to give due deference to her treating physicians’ opinions concerning her knee condition. (Pl. Mo. at 17–20). Magistrate Judge Grand agrees. Insofar as the ALJ decided to afford “limited weight” to Plaintiff’s treating physician’s opinion that Plaintiff is completely unable to kneel, Magistrate Judge Grand recommends the Court find that the ALJ’s decision is not supported by substantial evidence. (R&R at 18) (quoting Francis v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 414 Fed. App’x 802, 804 (6th Cir. 2011) (holding that an ALJ must give “good reasons” for the weight given to a treating physician’s opinion). Magistrate Judge Grand further finds that the ALJ has failed to justify the decision to afford “great weight” to the state agency medical consultant’s conclusion that Plaintiff could engage in occasional kneeling. (R&R at 19). Magistrate Judge Grand recommends that the Court remand the case to the ALJ for a ...


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