United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
AND ORDER (1) OVERRULING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS (DKT.
16), (2) ACCEPTING THE RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
(DKT. 15), (3) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT (DKT. 13), AND (4) GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DKT. 14)
A. GOLDSMITH United States District Judge.
social security case, Plaintiff Sadari Imari Brown appeals
from the final determination of the Commissioner of Social
Security that she is not disabled and, therefore, not
entitled to disability benefits. The matter was referred to
Magistrate Judge Patricia T. Morris for a Report and
Recommendation (“R&R”). The parties filed
cross-motions for summary judgment (Dkts. 13, 14), and
Magistrate Judge Morris issued an R&R recommending that
the Court grant the Commissioner's motion for summary
judgment and deny Brown's motion for summary judgment
(Dkt. 15). Brown filed objections to the R&R (Dkt. 16);
the Commissioner subsequently filed a response (Dkt. 17).
reasons that follow, the Court overrules Brown's
objections and accepts the recommendation contained in the
magistrate judge's R&R. The Commissioner's motion
is granted and Brown's motion is denied. The final
decision of the Commissioner is affirmed.
Court reviews de novo those portions of the R&R to which
a specific objection has been made. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). Under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), this Court's “review is limited to
determining whether the Commissioner's decision ‘is
supported by substantial evidence and was made pursuant to
proper legal standards.'” Ealy v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 594 F.3d 504, 512 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting
Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241
(6th Cir. 2007)). “Substantial evidence is ‘such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.'” Lindsley v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 560 F.3d 601, 604 (6th Cir.
2009) (quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389,
401 (1971)). In determining whether substantial evidence
exists, the Court may “look to any evidence in the
record, regardless of whether it has been cited by the
[Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)].”
Heston v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 245 F.3d 528, 535
(6th Cir. 2001). “[T]he claimant bears the burden of
producing sufficient evidence to show the existence of a
disability.” Watters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.
Admin., 530 F. App'x 419, 425 (6th Cir. 2013).
offers two objections: (i) the magistrate judge erred in
finding that the ALJ's decision was supported by
substantial evidence; and (ii) the magistrate judge erred in
finding that Brown's mental residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) was sufficient. See Obj. at 2,
3. The Court concludes that both objections lack merit.
begins her objection by citing to Bowen v. Commissioner
of Social Security, 478 F.3d 742 (6th Cir. 2007) for the
proposition that a decision supported by substantial evidence
will not be upheld when the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) regulations were not followed by the ALJ.
Obj. at 2. A claimant is entitled to benefits under the
Social Security Act if she can demonstrate her
“inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or
which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous
period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A). Corresponding regulations set forth a five-step
process to determine if the claimant is actually disabled.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. This
objection concerns the assessment of Brown's RFC, an
assessment that occurs between the third and fourth steps. A
claimant's RFC is used to determine whether the claimant
is capable of past relevant work, and if not, whether she is
capable of making an adjustment to other work. See
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv)-(v).
Bowen, the decision of the ALJ was overturned
because the ALJ failed to address the opinion of the
claimant's treating source, in violation of 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1527(d)(2). Bowen, 478 F.3d at 747.
Unlike in Bowen, Brown fails to identify which
regulation the ALJ failed to adhere to. In her objection,
Brown simply summarizes the court's holding in
Bowen and argues that she is entitled to reversal on
that basis. Obj. at 2. It is not the job of the Court to make
an argument on the claimant's behalf when the claimant
fails to provide her own factual support or legal analysis.
See McPherson v. Kelsey, 125 F.3d 989, 995-996 (6th
Cir. 1997) (“[I]ssues adverted to in a perfunctory
manner, unaccompanied by some effort at developed
argumentation, are deemed waived. It is not sufficient for a
party to mention a possible argument in the most skeletal
way, leaving the court to . . . put flesh on its
bones.”); Deguise v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
No. 12-10590, 2013 WL 1189967, at *7 (E.D. Mich. Feb. 19,
2013) (“[P]laintiff cannot simply make the claim that
the ALJ erred . . . while leaving it to the Court to scour
the record to support this claim.”), report and
recommendation adopted by 2013 WL 1187291 (E.D. Mich.
Mar. 22, 2013); Crocker v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
No. 1:08-CV-1091, 2010 WL 882831, at *6 (W.D. Mich. Mar. 9,
2010) (“This court need not make the lawyer's case
by scouring the party's various submissions to piece
together appropriate arguments.”). As a result, the
argument that the ALJ's decision should be overturned for
failure to follow the regulations is waived.
next argues that she is entitled to reversal because the ALJ
and magistrate judge misconstrued evidence and overlooked
evidence that supported her claim of disability. Obj. at 2-3.
Specifically, Brown argues that the ALJ and magistrate judge
“misconstrued medical evidence and testimony that
ultimately, resulted in an inadequate RFC to address
Plaintiff's severe medical conditions.”
Id. at 3. In Drummond v. Commissioner of Social
Security, 126 F.3d 837, 842 (6th Cir. 1997), the Sixth
Circuit held that “[a]bsent evidence of an improvement
in a claimant's condition, a subsequent ALJ is bound by
the findings of a previous ALJ.” This rule was
subsequently adopted by the SSA. See SSAR 98-4(6),
1998 WL 283902, at *3 (“SSA may not make a different
finding in adjudicating a subsequent disability claim with an
unadjudicated period arising under the same title of the Act
as the prior claim unless new and additional evidence or
changed circumstances provide a basis for a different finding
of the claimant's residual functional capacity.”).
Brown previously filed an application for disability benefits
on January 27, 2010. A.R. at 16. After the application was
denied, Brown appealed and proceeded to a hearing before an
ALJ. Id. On August 2, 2011, the ALJ affirmed the
denial of benefits. Id. In her ruling, the ALJ
determined that Brown had the following RFC:
[T]o perform a full range of work at all exertional levels
but with the following nonexertional limitations: unskilled,
routine, non-production-oriented, self-paced work with
occasional contact with the general public, co-workers, and
supervisors; cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds;
should avoid concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dusts,
noxious gases, and ...