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Nowak v. Colvin

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

February 7, 2017

PAMELA M. NOWAK, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          DECISION

          AVERN COHN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This is a Social Security case. Plaintiff Pamela Nowak (Nowak) appeals a decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits. Nowak sought benefits for fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and hypothyroidism, among other physical and mental impairments. An administrative law judge (ALJ) held a hearing at which Nowak testified, found Nowak not disabled, and denied her claim. The Appeals Council (AC) declined review.

         Nowak is suing under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking reversal of the Commissioner's decision. Nowak has filed a motion for summary judgment, (Doc. 9). The Commissioner has filed a cross motion for summary judgment, (Doc. 10). The motions were referred to a magistrate judge (MJ) who reported and recommended (R&R), (Doc. 12), that the Court deny Nowak's motion, grant the Commissioner's cross motion and affirm the denial of benefits. Nowak has filed objections to the R&R, (Doc. 13), to which the Commissioner has responded, (Doc. 14).

         For the reasons that follow, Nowak's objections to the R&R, (Doc. 13), are OVERRULED, the R&R, (Doc. 12), is ADOPTED, Nowak's motion for summary judgment, (Doc. 9), is DENIED, the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment, (Doc. 10), is GRANTED, and the Commissioner's denial of benefits is AFFIRMED.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Social Security Proceedings

         The parties do not object to the R&R's recitation of the facts. (See Docs. 13, 14). The Court adopts it. (See Doc. 12).

         Nowak claims a disability beginning April 9, 2009. Before then, for nearly 11 years, Nowak was employed full-time as a medical assistant working 12-hour shifts.

         The ALJ found Nowak had 4 severe impairments: scoliosis of the dorsal spine, loss of lordotic curve, osteoarthritis of the spine and Vitamin D deficiency. The ALJ also found non-severe impairments including hypothyroidism, depression and anxiety.

         The ALJ concluded that Nowak had no medically determinable impairment from fibromyalgia. The notes of Dr. Noor Bunney, Nowak's treating physician of 15 years, did not reference any “tender points” on her body to suggest such a diagnosis.

         In assessing residual functional capacity, the ALJ found Nowak's statements of symptoms credible but not her statements as to intensity, persistence and limiting effects of symptoms. The ALJ noted the latter were inconsistent with Nowak's medical records and statements of daily activities. The ALJ considered the opinion of Dr. Bunney that Nowak was significantly limited in her ability to do work and diagnosing her with fibromyalgia. The ALJ gave the opinion “no weight” as it was (1) unsupported by clinical findings in the treatment notes, which were unremarkable and reflected intact neurological function, strength and sensation; and (2) inconsistent with Nowak's statements of daily activities, which included attending and teaching lessons at church, yard work, reading, writing letters, driving and performing household chores.

         The ALJ found Nowak capable of performing light work with restrictions, including her past relevant work as a medical assistant.

         B. ...


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