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Jackson v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

March 22, 2017

DEREK VAN JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

         ORDER (1) OVERRULING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS (ECF #21) TO THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (ECF #20), (2) ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AS THE OPINION OF THE COURT, (3) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF #13), AND (4) GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF #16)

          MATTHEW F. LEITMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In this action, Plaintiff Derek Van Jackson (“Jackson”) challenges the denial of his application for supplemental security income (“SSI”) benefits. After the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, the assigned Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation in which he recommends that the Court (1) grant summary judgment in favor of the Defendant, the Commissioner of Social Security (the “Commissioner”), and (2) deny Jackson's motion for summary judgment (the “R&R”). (See ECF #20.) Jackson filed a timely objections to the R&R (the “Objections”). (See ECF #21.) The Court has conducted a de novo review of the portions of the R&R to which Jackson has objected. For the reasons stated below, the Court OVERRULES the Objections, ADOPTS AS THE OPINION OF THE COURT the well-reasoned R&R, GRANTS the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment, and DENIES Jackson's motion for summary judgment.

         I

         A[1]

         On June 21, 2012, Jackson filed an application for SSI benefits (the “Application”). (See Admin. R., ECF #11-6 at 9-14, Pg. ID 345-50.) In the Application, Jackson alleged he became disabled on June 1, 2003. (See id.) Among other things, Jackson insists that he suffers from depression, carpal tunnel syndrome, a degenerative hip condition, and numerous gastrointestinal illnesses that prevent him from working. The Social Security Administration (the “SSA”) denied the Application because it found that Jackson was not disabled. (See Admin. R., ECF #11-4 at 7-10, Pg. ID 212-15.)

         Jackson requested and received a de novo hearing before an administrative law judge (an “ALJ”). ALJ Ben Barnett (“ALJ Barnett”) held that hearing on July 3, 2013. On August 13, 2013, ALJ Barnett issued a written decision affirming the SSA's denial of benefits. (See Admin. R., ECF #11-3 at 39-51, Pg. ID 160-72.) He concluded that Jackson was not disabled and was not entitled to benefits. (See id.)

         Jackson sought review of ALJ Barnett's decision from the SSA's Appeals Council. On March 7, 2015, the Appeals Council vacated ALJ Barnett's decision and remanded Jackson's Application for a second hearing. (See Admin R., ECF #11-3 at 62-63, Pg. ID 183-84.) The Appeals Council determined that ALJ Barnett erred when he failed to evaluate the medical opinions of consulting examiner Anthony Gensterblum, Ph.D (“Dr. Gensterblum”). (See id.) It ordered an ALJ to offer Jackson a new hearing and to consider the findings of Dr. Gensterblum when reviewing Jackson's request for benefits. (See id.)

         Jackson's case was reassigned to ALJ Paul Jones (“ALJ Jones”). On June 9, 2015, ALJ Jones held a second hearing on the Application. Following that hearing, ALJ Jones issued a written decision in which he determined that Jackson was not disabled and was not entitled to benefits. (See Admin R., ECF #11-3 at 68-78, Pg. ID 189-99.) As the Appeals Council required, ALJ Jones reviewed and considered Dr. Gensterblum's medical opinions in his decision. ALJ Jones concluded that those opinions were entitled to “little weight” because they were based largely on Jackson's own “subjective complaints” (which ALJ Jones found not credible) and the representations of Jackson's girlfriend (whom ALJ Jones concluded was not an impartial observer). (ECF #11-3 at 75, Pg. ID 196.) ALJ Jones also noted that “Dr. Gensterblum saw [Jackson] only once and [did] not have a treating relationship with [Jackson].” (Id.) The Appeals Council thereafter declined to review ALJ Jones' decision. (See Admin R., ECF #11-2 at 2-4, Pg. ID 32-34.)

         B

         On February 9, 2016, Jackson filed this action challenging the SSA's denial of benefits. (See Compl., ECF #1.) Jackson and the Commissioner then filed cross-motions for summary judgment. (See Jackson's Mot. Summ. J., ECF #13; Commissioner's Mot. Summ. J., ECF #16.) The Court referred the cross-motions to the assigned Magistrate Judge. In his motion for summary judgment, Jackson alleged that ALJ Jones erred in three ways. (See Jackson Mot. at 10, ECF #13 at Pg. ID 1071.) First, Jackson argued that ALJ Jones did not afford proper weight to either the medical opinions of Dr. Gensterblum or to Jackson's treating physician Dr. Larry Farr (“Farr”). (See Id. at 15-20, ECF #13 at Pg. ID 1077-81.) More specifically, Jackson insisted that ALJ Jones did not follow the requirements of the Appeals Council to fully consider Dr. Gensterblum's opinion and did not provide sufficient reasons for affording “little weight” to Dr. Farr's opinion, an opinion ALJ Jones found “ambiguous.” (Id.) Second, Jackson claimed that ALJ Jones did not consider the effect of all of Jackson's symptoms when assessing Jackson's ability to work. (See Id. at 20-21, ECF #13 at Pg. ID 1081-82.) Finally, Jackson argued that ALJ Jones' conclusion that Jackson was not credible was not supported by evidence in the record. (See Id. at 22, ECF #13 at Pg. ID 1083.)

         On February 15, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued the R&R in which he recommends that the Court grant the Commissioner's motion and deny Jackson's motion. (See R&R, ECF #20) In arriving at his recommendation, the Magistrate Judge carefully analyzed the three arguments that Jackson made in his motion for summary judgment, but he was not persuaded by any of them. (See id.)

         On February 28, 2017, Jackson filed the Objections. (See ECF #17.) The Objections raise the same three arguments described above that Jackson ...


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