United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ANDREA M. JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
PATRICIA T. MORRIS MAGISTRATE.
OPINION AND ORDER OVERRULING OBJECTIONS ,
ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION , DENYING
PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT , AND
GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III United States District Judge.
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
("SSA") denied Andrea Johnson's application for
Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance
Benefits in a decision issued by an Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ"). The SSA Appeals Council declined to review
the ruling, and Johnson appealed. The Court referred the
matter to the magistrate judge and the parties filed
cross-motions for summary judgment. The magistrate judge
issued a Report and Recommendation ("Report")
suggesting the Court deny Johnson's motion and grant the
Commissioner's motion. Johnson filed timely objections.
Having examined the record and considered the objections de
novo, the Court will overrule the objections, adopt the
Report, deny Johnson's motion for summary judgment, grant
the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment, and
dismiss the complaint.
Report properly details the events giving rise to
Johnson's action. Report 1-2, 5-11, ECF No. 21. The Court
will adopt that portion of the Report.
Rule 72(b) governs the review of a magistrate judge's
report. A district court's standard of review depends
upon whether a party files objections. The Court need not
undertake any review of portions of a Report to which no
party has objected. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 153
(1985). De novo review is required, however, if the parties
"serve and file specific written objections to the
proposed findings and recommendations." Fed.R.Civ.P.
72(b)(2). In conducting a de novo review, "[t]he
district judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommended
disposition; receive further evidence; or return the matter
to the magistrate judge with instructions." Fed.R.Civ.P.
reviewing a case under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the Court
"must affirm the Commissioner's conclusions absent a
determination that the Commissioner has failed to apply the
correct legal standards or has made findings of fact
unsupported by substantial evidence in the record."
Longworth v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 402 F.3d
591, 595 (6th Cir. 2005). "Substantial evidence is less
than a preponderance but more than a scintilla; it refers to
relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion." Minor v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 513 F.App'x 417, 432 (6th
Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). An ALJ may consider the entire
body of evidence without directly addressing each piece in
his decision. Kornecky v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
167 F.App'x 496, 508 (6th Cir. 2006). And an ALJ need not
"make explicit credibility findings as to each bit of
conflicting testimony, so long as his factual findings as a
whole show that he implicitly resolved such conflicts."
Id. (quotations omitted).
claims the ALJ's credibility determination was not
supported by substantial evidence. Obj. 1-6, ECF No. 22. An
ALJ may properly assess a claimant's credibility when
considering her complaints. Walters v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 531 (6th Cir. 1997). And because an
ALJ's duty is to observe a witness's demeanor and
credibility, any findings based on credibility are to be
accorded great weight and deference. Id.
Johnson disputes the magistrate judge's suggestion that
"other evidence supports the ALJ's credibility
assessment such as the ALJ being permitted to favor global
assessment functioning (GAF) scores of 50 versus 20-35 after
hospitalizations." Obj. 2, ECF No. 22. She argues that
the vacillation of her scores does not support the conclusion
that she could perform work on a sustained basis.
Id. The Court disagrees. The ALJ considered all the
record evidence and found that Johnson's statements
"are not fully consistent with the medical signs and
laboratory findings and other information provided by medical
sources, including the longitudinal medical record, to a
degree that supports a finding of disability." AR 170,
ECF No. 14-2. The magistrate judge did not cite the GAF
scores to support a finding that Johnson could work on a
sustained basis. Rather, she explained why the ALJ was
justified in favoring the GAF score of 50 over the lower
scores. The ALJ favored the higher scores because they were
"developed over many months and present a more
longitudinal and accurate picture of the claimant's
overall functional ability." AR 168, ECF No. 14-2. The
ALJ's credibility determination was proper, and supported
by sound reasoning and substantial evidence.
Johnson contests the magistrate judge's finding that the
ALJ's credibility determination was supported by
Johnson's improvement with each increase in medication.
Obj. 4-5, ECF No. 22. That argument is also flawed. The
record demonstrates that the medication improved
Johnson's condition, and the ALJ rightly found that the
evidence discredited Johnson's allegations of disability.
See AR 479, 484, 530, 619, ECF No. 14-7.
Johnson argues that Johnson's daily activities did not
support the ALJ's adverse credibility finding. The record
belies this contention as well: Johnson demonstrated a
capacity to care for herself, "live independently,
" and "handle her own affairs." See
AR 500, 507, 515, ECF No. 14-7. As a result, the Court will
defer to the ...