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Cooper v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

August 15, 2017

ANNIERL COOPER, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          David R. Grand United States Magistrate Judge.

          OPINION AND ORDER: (1) OVERRULING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS (ECF NO. 14); (2) ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE (ECF NO. 13); (3) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 10); (4) GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 12); AND (5) AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY

          Paul D. Borman United States District Judge.

         On March 27, 2017, Magistrate Judge David R. Grand issued a Report and Recommendation on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. (ECF No. 13, Report and Recommendation.) In the Report and Recommendation, the Magistrate Judge recommended that this Court deny Plaintiff Annierl Cooper's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 10), grant Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 12), and affirm the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security to deny Plaintiff's claim for Supplemental Security Income (ECF Nos. 7-2-7-9, Transcript of Social Security Proceedings (hereinafter “Tr. at ___”) at 15-25.).

         Now before the Court are Plaintiffs Objections to the Report and Recommendation. (ECF No. 14, Pl.'s Objs.) Defendant filed a timely Response. (ECF No. 15, Def.'s Resp.) Having conducted a de novo review of the parts of the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation to which objections have been filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the Court will overrule Plaintiff's Objections and adopt the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Magistrate Judge adequately set forth the procedural and factual background of this matter in his Report and Recommendation. The Court adopts that summary here. (Report and Recommendation at 2-6, Pg ID 1396-1400.)

         II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the Court conducts a de novo review of the portions of the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation to which a party has filed “specific written objections” in a timely manner. Lyons v. Comm'r Soc. Sec, 351 F.Supp.2d 659, 661 (E.D. Mich. 2004). A district court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” Id. 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 omitted). “A general objection, or one that merely restates the arguments previously presented is not sufficient to alert the court to alleged errors on the part of the magistrate judge.” Aldrich v. Bock, 327 F.Supp.2d 743, 747 (E.D. Mich. 2004). Likewise, an objection that does nothing more than disagree with a magistrate judge's determination “without explaining the source of the error” is not a valid objection. Howard v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991).

         In reviewing the findings of the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), the Court is limited to determining whether those findings are supported by substantial evidence and made pursuant to proper legal standards. See Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 405(h)); see also Cutlip v. Sec't of Health and Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994). Substantial evidence is “‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'” Kyle v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 609 F.3d 847, 854 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Lindsley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 560 F.3d 601, 604 (6th Cir. 2009)); see also McGlothin v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 299 F. App'x 516, 522 (6th Cir. 2008) (recognizing that substantial evidence is “more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance”) (internal quotation marks omitted). “If the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, [the court] must defer to that decision, ‘even if there is substantial evidence in the record that would have supported an opposite conclusion.'” Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Longworth v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 402 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir. 2005)).

         As to whether proper legal criteria were followed, a decision of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) that is supported by substantial evidence will not be upheld “where the SSA fails to follow its own regulations and where that error prejudices a claimant on the merits or deprives the claimant of a substantial right.” Bowen v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 478 F.3d 742, 746 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 378 F.3d 541, 546-47 (6th Cir. 2004)).

         This Court does not “try the case de novo, nor resolve conflicts in the evidence, nor decide questions of credibility.” Cutlip, 25 F.3d at 286. It is “for the ALJ, and not the reviewing court, to evaluate the credibility of witnesses, including that of the claimant.” Rogers, 486 F.3d at 247; see also Cruse v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 502 F.3d 532, 542 (6th Cir. 2007) (noting that the “ALJ's credibility determinations about the claimant are to be given great weight, ‘particularly since the ALJ is charged with observing the claimant's demeanor and credibility'”) (quoting Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 127 F.3d 525, 531 (6th Cir. 1997)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         In determining that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act (the “Act”), the ALJ employed the five-step analysis provided for in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. The Magistrate Judge summarized that analysis as follows:

Step One: If the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity, benefits are denied without further analysis.
Step Two: If the claimant does not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments that “significantly limits . . . physical or mental ability to do basic work activities, ” benefits are denied without further analysis.
Step Three: If the claimant is not performing substantial gainful activity, has a severe impairment that is expected to last for at least twelve months, and the severe impairment meets or equals one of the impairments listed in the regulations, the claimant is conclusively presumed to be disabled regardless of age, education, or work experience.
Step Four: If the claimant is able to perform his or her past relevant work, benefits are denied without further analysis.
Step Five: Even if the claimant is unable to perform his or her past relevant work, if other work exists in the national economy that the claimant can perform, in view of his or her age, ...

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