United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
BRIAN K. DUNAVAN, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER SUSTAINING DEFENDANT'S
OBJECTIONS , REJECTING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT
AND RECOMMENDATION , GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT , DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT , AND AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S
G. Edmunds United States District Judge
Brian Dunavan seeks judicial review of Defendant Commissioner
of Social Security's determination that he is not
entitled to social security benefits. The Court referred the
matter to Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Stafford, and, on
February 14, 2017, she issued a Report and Recommendation
(R&R) finding that the Commissioner's decision is not
supported by substantial evidence. As a result, the R&R
recommends granting Plaintiff's motion for summary
judgment, denying Defendant's motion for summary
judgment, and remanding the case to the Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ) for further consideration. Defendant timely filed
six objections to the R&R, which the Court considers
here. For the reasons that follow, the Court SUSTAINS
Defendant's objections and finds that substantial
evidence supports the Commissioner's decision. As a
result, the R&R is REJECTED, Defendant's motion for
summary judgment is GRANTED, Plaintiff's motion for
summary judgment is DENIED, and the Commissioner's
decision is AFFIRMED.
does not object to either the R&R's recitation of
Plaintiff's claimed disabilities or its review of the
ALJ's application of the disability framework analysis.
(See Dkt. 19, at 2-5.) Therefore, the Court adopts
and incorporates those portions of the R&R. The Court
will introduce additional facts as necessary to evaluate
most general level, the R&R recommends remanding the case
because the ALJ violated the "treating physician
rule" by "failing to give controlling weight to the
opinion of [Plaintiff's] treating physician, Dr. Ronald
Coriasso." (Id. at 6.) On a more granular
level, the R&R finds that the ALJ committed the following
errors: (1) the ALJ relied on his own medical expertise to
draw conclusions from raw medical data; (2) the ALJ
disregarded certain clinical findings that supported Dr.
Coriasso's conclusions; (3) the ALJ did not provide good
reasons for ignoring Dr. Coriasso's opinion that
Plaintiff could not work a full day or week; (4) the ALJ
disregarded the general rule that treating physicians'
opinions are given more weight than those of consultants; and
(5) the ALJ used evidence related to Plaintiff's
credibility to "override" Dr. Coriasso's
opinion. (Id. at 14, 19, 20, 22.) The R&R goes
on to find that, because of those errors, the ALJ's
assessment of Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(RFC) is not supported by substantial evidence. (Id.
at 6.) The R&R explains: "These [issues] are
intertwined in that, if the ALJ did not provide good reasons
for giving little weight to Dr. Coriasso's opinion, the
assessed RFC is unsustainable." (Id.)
has filed six objections to the R&R, and the Court
sustains each of them for the reasons below. In the process,
the Court also finds that the ALJ's determination is
supported by substantial evidence, so the Court concludes
that a remand is unnecessary.
Objections to a Magistrate Judge's R&R
party objects to portions of a magistrate judge's report
and recommendation, the Court reviews such portions de
novo. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). However, only specific
objections that pinpoint a source of error are entitled to
de novo review. Mira v. Marshall, 806 F.2d
636, 637 (6th Cir. 1986). General objections, or those that
merely challenge the magistrate judge's overall
determination, have "the same effects as would a failure
to object." Howard v. Sec'y of Health and Human
Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991). That is, such
objections are not valid, and the Court may treat them as if
they were waived. See Bellmore-Byrne v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 2016 WL 5219541, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 22,
2016) (citing id.).
Judicial Review of an ALJ's Decision
Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's final
administrative decision pursuant to 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." Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
127 F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997). Substantial evidence is
"such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion."
Id. (quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). It is more than a scintilla but less
than a preponderance of the evidence. See Rogers v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir.
2007). When reviewing the Commissioner's decision, the
Court should "not try the case de novo, resolve
conflicts in evidence, or decide questions of
credibility." Bass v. McMahon, 499 F.3d 506,
509 (6th Cir. 2007). Rather, if substantial evidence supports
the Commissioner's decision, it must be affirmed
regardless of whether this Court would decide the matter
differently or even if substantial evidence supports another
conclusion. See Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health and Human
Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994).
The Application of the Treating Physician Rule to Dr.
first objects to the R&R's finding that the ALJ
failed to comply with the "treating physician rule"
with respect to Dr. Coriasso's opinion. (Dkt. 20, at 1.)
Under the treating physician rule, an ALJ must give a
treating physician's opinion controlling weight if it is
"well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and
laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent with
other substantial evidence in the case record."
Gentry v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 741 F.3d 708, 723
(6th Cir. 2014) (citation omitted). "When the treating
physician's opinion is not controlling, the ALJ, in
determining how much weight is appropriate, must consider a
host of factors, including the length, frequency, nature, and
extent of the treatment relationship; the supportability and
consistency of the physician's conclusions; the