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Watson v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

July 22, 2015

Melissa Watson, Plaintiff,
v.
Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

GERSHWIN A. DRAIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE, CHARLES E. BINDER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

OPINION AND ORDER OVERRULING PLAINTIFF’S OBJECTIONS [23], ACCEPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [22], GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [19], DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT[17], AND AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER’S DECISION

Hon. Gershwin A. Drain United States District Court Judge.

I. Introduction

Melissa Watson (“Watson” or “Plaintiff”) brought this action against the Commissioner of Social Security (“the Commissioner” or “Defendant”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) on September 8, 2014. See Dkt. No. 1. In the complaint, Watson challenged the Commissioner’s final decision denying her application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) and Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under the Social Security Act (“the Act”). This Court referred the matter to Magistrate Judge David R. Grand on September 9, 2014. See Dkt. No. 4. The case was reassigned to Magistrate Judge Charles E. Binder on March 30, 2015 pursuant to Administrative Order 15-AO-027.

Watson filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on February 11, 2015. See Dkt. No. 17. The Commissioner also filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on March 12, 2015. See Dkt. No. 19. On May 18, 2015, Watson filed a “Reply Brief” to the Commissioner’s Motion for Summary Judgment. See Dkt. No. 21.

On May 26, 2015, Magistrate Judge Binder determined the Administrative Law Judge’s (“ALJ”) decision was supported by substantial evidence, and that Watson retained the residual functional capacity for a limited range of sedentary work. See Dkt. No. 22. Accordingly, Magistrate Judge Binder recommended that the Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment [17] be denied and the Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment [19] be granted. See id.

On June 1, 2015 Watson submitted her “Objections to Magistrate’s Report and Recommendation.” See Dkt. No. 23. The Commissioner responded to Watson’s objections on June 4, 2015. See Dkt. Nos. 24, 25. After reviewing Watson’s Objections to Magistrate’s Report and Recommendation, the Court will OVERRULE Watson’s Objections [#23] and ACCEPT Magistrate Judge Binder’s Report and Recommendation [#22].

II. Discussion

A. Standard of Review

Where a party has objected to portions of a Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation, the Court conducts a de novo review of these portions. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b); Lyons v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 351 F.Supp.2d 659, 661 (E.D. Mich. 2004). In reviewing the findings of the ALJ, the Court is limited to determining whether the ALJ’s findings are supported by substantial evidence and made pursuant to proper legal standards. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (“The findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive . . .”); Rogers v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007).

“A reviewing court will affirm the Commissioner’s decision if it is based on substantial evidence, even if substantial evidence would also have supported the opposite conclusion.” Gayheart v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 710 F.3d 365, 374 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971) (internal quotations omitted); see also McGlothin v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 299 F. App’x 516, 522 (6th Cir. 2008) (recognizing that substantial evidence is “more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”) (internal quotations omitted).

B. Legal Analysis

Watson raises one objection with three different arguments in her “Objections to Magistrate’s Report and Recommendation.” See Dkt. No. 23 at 1. Watson objects, arguing that the Magistrate’s Report fails to address the following: (1) that the ALJ’s Decisions failed to give controlling weight to the opinions of treating physicians Dr. Akbar and Dr. Ahmed and treating psychiatrist Dr. Kondapaneni, (2) that the ALJ’s Decision failed to give good reasons for not giving those physicians’ opinions controlling weight, and (3) that the ALJ Decision failed to state what weight it did give to those physicians’ opinions. See Dkt. No. 23 at 1.

As an initial matter, the Court notes that it is in agreement with Magistrate Judge Binder’s ultimate conclusion. When reviewing the decision of the ALJ pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the district court is limited to determining whether the Commissioner’s findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether the ALJ employed the proper legal standards. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. at 401. The Magistrate Judge acknowledged that there is medical evidence on both sides, but ...


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