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Grunwald v. Colvin

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

July 18, 2017




         The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) denied Plaintiff David Grunwald's application for Disability Insurance Benefits in a decision issued by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). ECF 15-2, PgID 135. The SSA Appeals Council declined to review the ruling. Grunwald appealed and the Court referred the matter to the magistrate judge. The parties then filed cross-motions for summary judgment. See ECF 21, 25. The magistrate judge issued a Report and Recommendation suggesting the Court grant the Commissioner's motion, deny Grunwald's motion, and dismiss the case. ECF 29. Grunwald's timely objections followed. ECF 30. For the reasons stated below, the Court will overrule the objections, adopt the Report, deny Grunwald's motion for summary judgment, grant the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment, and dismiss the case.


         The Court will adopt the magistrate judge's description of Grunwald's medical and procedural history. See ECF 29.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b) governs review of a magistrate judge's report. If the parties "serve and file specific written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations, " then the Court must review the report de novo. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2), (3). A district court need not review portions of a report, however, to which no party has objected. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985). "The district judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3).

         When reviewing a social security appeal, 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." Longworth v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 402 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir. 2005) (quotations omitted). Substantial evidence consists of "more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance" such that a "reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007) (quotations omitted). An ALJ must consider the entire body of evidence but need not directly address each piece in his decision. Kornecky v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 167 F.App'x 496, 508 (6th Cir. 2006). "Nor must an ALJ make explicit credibility findings as to each bit of conflicting testimony, so long as his factual findings as a whole show that he implicitly resolved such conflicts." Id.


         Grunwald objects to the ALJ's evaluation of bathroom-use requirements, opinion evidence, and credibility. Additionally, Grunwald claims the ALJ should not have relied on the vocational expert's (VE) testimony because it lacked foundation. As the magistrate judge explained in her thorough and well-reasoned report, the objections lack merit.

         I. Bathroom-Proximity Limitation

         Grunwald claims the ALJ failed to properly evaluate his bathroom-use requirements. Grunwald testified that he suffered symptoms from colitis once or twice a week. ECF 15-3, PgID 162. But the medical records contain scarce mention of colitis. A colonoscopy revealed "mild ischemic colitis" that was stabilized with antibiotics and "home medications." ECF 15-13, PgID 628-29. Also, a treating physician listed "colitis" as one of Grunwald's reported symptoms. ECF 15-17, PgID 903.

         As an initial matter, Grunwald bears the "burden to prove the severity of [his] impairments." Higgs v. Bowen, 880 F.2d 860, 863 (6th Cir. 1988). He has not met his burden with regard to colitis. The limited record evidence regarding colitis does not prove the severity or functional limitations Grunwald claims. Also, the ALJ was not required to explicitly address the conflict between Grunwald's testimony and his medical records. Kornecky, 167 F.App'x at 508. Instead, she implicitly resolved the conflict by examining the medical records related to colitis, noting that Grunwald's statements related to the severity of symptoms lacked objective medical support, and concluding that colitis was not a severe impairment. See ECF 15-2, PgID 127, 130. In sum, the limited medical documentation of Grunwald's colitis supported the ALJ's conclusion regarding the severity of the impairment and her determination as to his bathroom-proximity restrictions.

         In addition, the ALJ's bathroom-proximity limitation was substantially supported by both Grunwald's testimony and the medical records. Grunwald testified that he has to urinate two times an hour "[b]ecause of my diabetes and I have to drink a lot of water." ECF 15-3, PgID 162. Doctors repeatedly advised Grunwald that a change in diet would help control his diabetes and its complications. See, e.g., ECF 15-10, PgID 449. He also testified that he does not comply with the recommended dietary restrictions. ECF 15-3, PgID 166-67. Thus, the ALJ properly concluded that better control of Grunwald's diabetes would lead to reduced bathroom-use limitations.

         On a related point, Grunwald objects that the ALJ's conclusion-that Grunwald could "manage his [colitis] symptoms, which are often secondary to uncontrolled diabetes and intestinal disorders"-lacked support from the medical evidence. See ECF 15-2, PgID 130. But regardless of whether the medical record explicitly linked Grunwald's colitis symptoms to his uncontrolled diabetes, substantial evidence supported the ALJ's determination that his colitis was not a severe impairment. ECF 15-13, PgID 628-29 (medical records indicating "mild colitis" treated with antibiotics and pain medication), ECF 15-17, PgID 903 (medical record listing "colitis" as a symptom reported by Grunwald). As a result, the Court finds no error with the ALJ's conclusion regarding the severity of Grunwald's colitis or the bathroom-proximity limitation. There is no ...

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