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Amir v. Colvin

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

December 6, 2016

Abdullah Shrif Amir, Plaintiff,
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Defendant.

          Anthony P. Patti Mag. Judge.

         OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS TO THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [23], ADOPTING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [22], DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [18], AND GRANTING THE COMMISSION'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [19]

          JUDITH E. LEVY United States District Judge

         On June 28, 2016, the Magistrate Judge filed a Report and Recommendation, recommending that the Court deny plaintiff Abdullah Shrif Amir's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 18) and grant the Commissioner of Social Security's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 19). (Dkt. 22.) Plaintiff timely filed objections (Dkt. 23), and the Commissioner filed a response. (Dkt. 25.) For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's objections are denied, and the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation to deny plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and grant the Commission's motion for summary judgment is adopted in full.

         I. Background

         The Court has reviewed the background in light of the record and finds that the Magistrate Judge's description of this case is accurate. In addition, plaintiff has not specifically objected to the background as described in the Report and Recommendation. It is thus adopted in full. (Dkt. 22 at 2-8.) Any disputes as to the facts are addressed in the analysis.

         II. Standard

         An applicant for disability benefits who is not satisfied with the Commissioner's final decision may obtain review in federal district court. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The district court “must affirm the Commissioner's conclusions absent a determination that the Commissioner has failed to apply the correct legal standard or has made findings of fact unsupported by substantial evidence in the record.” Longworth v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 402 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks omitted). The court may affirm, modify, or reverse the Commissioner's decision, and may also choose to remand the case for rehearing when appropriate. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         The Commissioner's findings of fact are given substantial deference on review and are conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. Barker v. Shalala, 40 F.3d 789, 795 (6th Cir. 1994); 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is “more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007). If there is substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's decision, the district court must affirm it even if substantial evidence also supports a contrary conclusion. Bass v. McMahon, 499 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 2007); Wright v. Massanari, 321 F.3d 611, 614 (6th Cir. 2003); see also Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994) (if the decision is supported by substantial evidence, “it must be affirmed even if the reviewing court would decide the matter differently . . . and even if substantial evidence also supports the opposite conclusion”).

         When deciding whether there is substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's factual findings, the district court is limited to an examination of the record and should consider the record as a whole. Bass, 499 F.3d at 512-13; Wyatt v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 974 F.2d 680, 683 (6th Cir. 1992). However, neither the Commissioner nor the reviewing court must discuss every piece of evidence in the administrative record. Kornecky v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 167 F. App'x 496, 508 (6th Cir. 2006).

         When a Magistrate Judge has submitted a Report and Recommendation and a party has filed timely objections, the district court conducts a de novo review of those parts of the Report and Recommendation to which the party objects. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).

         III. Analysis

         a. Objection 1

         Plaintiff argues that the Magistrate Judge erred by relying on a vocational expert's testimony because plaintiff's limitations place him between two grid rules that both direct a finding of disabled. (Dkt. 23 at 2-3.) According to plaintiff, reliance on the vocational expert is only appropriate when a plaintiff's limitations place him between grid rules that direct opposite findings of disabled and not disabled. (Id. at 2.)

         Specifically, plaintiff argues that he was between grid rules because the findings placed him between sedentary and light work, but even the applicable light-work grid would direct a finding of disabled. (Id. (citing 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2, Table 2, § 202.09).) Rule 202.09, cited by plaintiff, applies if plaintiff has the following limitations: ability to perform light work, illiteracy or inability to communicate in English, previous unskilled work, and an age range approaching advanced age (fifty to fifty-four). 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2, Table 2, § 202.09.

         Plaintiff's argument assumes that plaintiff should have been considered approaching advanced age. But at the time of the ALJ's decision, plaintiff was forty-nine. (See Dkt. 13-2 at 35 (“[H]e's 49 now, he'll be 50 next spring.”); see also Id. at 24-25, 30 (plaintiff born May 14, 1964, hearing decision February 6, 2014).) The Magistrate Judge rejected plaintiff's argument that he should have been considered within the fifty to fifty-four age category. (Dkt. 22 at 14-15.) As set forth below in the analysis of objection 2, the Magistrate Judge's decision was not clearly erroneous. Thus, plaintiff's first objection is denied.

         b. Objection 2

         Necessary to support plaintiff's first objection, plaintiff argues that the Magistrate Judge erred by accepting the ALJ's “mechanical approach to [plaintiff]'s age category.” (Dkt. 23 at 3-7.) According to plaintiff, “the ALJ was required to consider [plaintiff]'s ...


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