United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division
Magistrate Judge Elizabeth A. Stafford
SUSTAINING OBJECTION, ADOPTING IN PART AND REJECTING IN PART
THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION, GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, AND REMANDING COMMISSIONER'S
DECISION PURSUANT TO SENTENCE FOUR OF 42 U.S.C. §
L. LUDINGTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Richard Eugene Patrick filed an application for Disability
Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income on May 5,
2013, alleging a disability onset date of July 1, 2011. After
his applications were initially denied Plaintiff timely
requested an administrative hearing, which was held on
February 6, 2015. On March 2, 2015 the ALJ issued a written
decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled under the
Social Security Act. That decision became final when the
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review.
Plaintiff appealed to this Court on February 1, 2016.
See Compl., ECF No. 1.
Patrick filed a motion for summary judgment on June 20, 2016.
ECF No. 15. Defendant Commissioner then filed a motion for
summary judgment on July 18, 2016. ECF No. 16. On February 8,
2017, Magistrate Judge Elizabeth A. Stafford issued a report
and recommendation, concluding that the ALJ's
determination that Edwards was not disabled was not supported
by substantial evidence. ECF No. 17. In so
concluding, the magistrate judge found that the ALJ failed to
give controlling weight to the opinion of Patrick's
treating source, Dr.
Terejo, M.D., or, in the alternative, failed to provide good
reasons for giving less than controlling weight to the Dr.
Terejo's opinion. The magistrate judge further found that
the ALJ had impermissibly “played doctor.” She
therefore recommended that Plaintiff's motion for summary
judgment be granted, Defendant Commissioner's motion for
summary judgment be denied, and the Commissioner's
decision be remanded pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). The Commissioner timely objected on February
16, 2017. See ECF No. 18.
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72, a party may object to
and seek review of a Magistrate Judge's report and
recommendation. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2). Objections must be
stated with specificity. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S.
140, 151 (1985) (citation omitted). If objections are made,
“[t]he district judge must determine de novo any part
of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been
properly objected to.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). De novo
review requires at least a review of the evidence before the
Magistrate Judge; the Court may not act solely on the basis
of a Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation.
See Hill v. Duriron Co., 656 F.2d 1208, 1215 (6th
Cir. 1981). After reviewing the evidence, the Court is free
to accept, reject, or modify the findings or recommendations
of the Magistrate Judge. See Lardie v. Birkett, 221
F.Supp.2d 806, 807 (E.D. Mich. 2002).
Commissioner does not object to the magistrate judge's
conclusion that the matter should be remanded pursuant to
sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Commissioner
objects only to the magistrate judge's finding that the
ALJ impermissibly “played doctor” in reaching her
ALJ should resist the temptation to substitute the ALJ's
own interpretation of medical records for that of a physician
who has examined the records.” Brown v. Comm'r
of Soc.Sec., 602 F. App'x 328, 331 (6th Cir. 2015).
In other words, “ALJ's must not succumb to the
temptation to play doctor and make their own independent
medical findings.” Simpson v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 344 F. App'x 181, 194 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Rohan v. Chater, 98 F.3d 966, 970 (7th Cir. 1996)).
On the other hand, the ALJ is required to make findings as to
whether a treating source's medical opinion is
well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and
laboratory diagnostic techniques and supported by substantial
evidence. See SSR 96-2p, 1996 WL 374188 at *1 (July
2, 1996); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(c)(2),
the ALJ did not establish adequate grounds on which to
discount the opinion of Patrick's treating physician. The
ALJ thus did not adhere to the proper procedures in assessing
Patrick's disability claims. See Gentry v. Comm'r
of Soc. Sec., 741 F.3d 708, 723 (2014). Specifically,
the ALJ did not follow the treating physician rule, which
requires the ALJ to “give controlling weight to a
treating physician's opinion as to the nature and
severity of the claimant's condition as long as it
‘is well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and
laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent with
the other substantial evidence in [the] case
record.'” Id. (citing 20 C.F.R. §
404.1527(c)(2)). This rule intrinsically requires the ALJ to
consider and weigh the medical evidence of record. In the
present case, the ALJ's primary error was not in engaging
with the record and weighing the evidence, but in failing to
award sufficient deference to a treating source opinion. The
Commissioner's objection will therefore be sustained, and
the magistrate judge's report rejected to the extent she
states that the ALJ impermissibly “played
it ORDERED that Defendant Commissioner's
objections, ECF No. 18, are SUSTAINED.
further ORDERED that the magistrate
judge's report and recommendation, ECF No. 17, is
ADOPTED IN PART AND REJECTED IN PART It is
further ORDERED that Plaintiff Patrick's