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Latham v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

March 30, 2017

WILLIAM T. LATHAM, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          David R. Grand United States Magistrate Judge

         OPINION AND ORDER (1) ADOPTING MAGISTRATE JUDGE DAVID R. GRAND'S DECEMBER 27, 2016 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (ECF NO. 15), (2) OVERRULING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS (ECF NO. 16), (3) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 11), (4) GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 14), AND (5) AFFIRMING THE FINDINGS OF THE COMMISSIONER

          PAUL D. BORMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On December 27, 2016, Magistrate Judge David R. Grand issued a Report and Recommendation to affirm the Commissioner's decision to deny Plaintiff's claim for disability insurance and supplemental security income benefits. (ECF No. 15, Report and Recommendation.) Plaintiff filed Objections to the Report and Recommendation (ECF No. 16) and Defendant filed a Response to Plaintiff's Objections (ECF No. 17).

         Having conducted a de novo review, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), of those parts of the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation to which specific objections have been filed, the Court OVERRULES Plaintiff's Objections, ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 14), DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 11), and AFFIRMS the findings of the Commissioner.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Magistrate Judge adequately set for the procedural and factual background of this matter in his Report and Recommendation and the Court adopts that summary here. (Report and Recommendation 2-6.)

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Where a party has objected to portions of a Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, the Court conducts a de novo review of those portions. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); Lyons v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 351 F.Supp.2d 659, 661 (E.D. Mich. 2004). Only those objections that are specific are entitled to a de novo review under the statute. Mira v. Marshall, 806 F.2d 636, 637 (6th Cir. 1986). “The parties have the duty to pinpoint those portions of the magistrate's report that the district court must specially consider.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). A nonspecific objection, or one that merely reiterates arguments previously presented, does not adequately identify alleged errors on the part of the magistrate judge and results in a duplication of effort on the part of the district court: “A general objection to the entirety of the magistrate's report has the same effects as would a failure to object. The district court's attention is not focused on any specific issues for review, thereby making the initial reference to the magistrate useless.” Howard v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991). Specific objections enable the Court to focus on the particular issues in contention. An “objection” that does nothing more than disagree with a magistrate judge's determination, “without explaining the source of the error, ” is not considered a valid objection. Id. Without specific objections, “[t]he functions of the district court are effectively duplicated as both the magistrate and the district court perform identical tasks. This duplication of time and effort wastes judicial resources rather than saving them, and runs contrary to the purposes of the Magistrates Act.” Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Objection No. 1: Plaintiff objects to the Magistrate Judge's finding that the Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ”) residual functional capacity (“RFC”) was not internally inconsistent.

         As Magistrate Judge Grand states in his Report and Recommendation, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the RFC to perform a reduced range of light work, with the limitation (among others) that he needs a cane while ambulating. (Report at 14, PgID 385.) Light work is defined as work involving “lifting no more than 20 pounds at a time with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing up to 10 pounds.” (Id.) Plaintiff argues that the restriction of a cane for ambulation is internally inconsistent with an RFC for light work because it would require Plaintiff to be able to carry up to 20 pounds. (Objs. at 1-2, PgID 392-93.) The Court disagrees with Plaintiff.

         The Magistrate Judge correctly found that nothing in the ALJ's RFC requires that Plaintiff be able to carry 20 pounds. The RFC for light work unambiguously requires only that Plaintiff be able to lift 20 pounds and distinguishes this lifting requirement in the next clause of the definition which specifies that Plaintiff must lift and carry up to 10 pounds. Plaintiff insists that the requirement of light work requires “the ability to lift and carry weights up to 20 pounds, ” but this interpretation is patently wrong. The Magistrate Judge correctly concluded that an RFC that requires ambulation with a cane and the ability to lift and carry up to 10 pounds was not internally inconsistent because it does not require Plaintiff to carry up 20 pounds. The ALJ specifically included the use of a cane for ambulation in his hypothetical to the vocational expert (“VE”) and did not include a limitation of carrying up to 20 pounds. The VE found that with those combined limitations, there were a significant number of jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform.

         Plaintiff relies on Love v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 605 F.Supp.2d 893 (W.D. Mich. 2009), but that case discusses the “illogic” of the conclusion that a plaintiff would need an assistive device ...


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