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Henry v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

August 30, 2017

EDWARD W. HENRY, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

         OPINION & ORDER (1) OVERRULING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS (DKT. 16), (2) ACCEPTING THE RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE (DKT. 15), (3) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DKT. 13), AND (4) GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DKT. 14)

          MARK A. GOLDSMITH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         In this social security case, Plaintiff Edward W. Henry appeals from the final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security that he is not disabled and, therefore, not entitled to disability benefits. The matter was referred to Magistrate Judge Patricia T. Morris for a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”). The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment (Dkts. 13, 14), and the magistrate judge issued an R&R recommending that the Court grant the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment and deny Henry's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 15). Henry filed objections to the R&R (Dkt. 16); the Commissioner subsequently filed a response (Dkt. 17).

         For the reasons that follow, the Court overrules Henry's objections and accepts the recommendation contained in the magistrate judge's R&R. The Commissioner's motion is granted and Henry's motion is denied. The final decision of the Commissioner is affirmed.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         The Court reviews de novo those portions of the R&R to which a specific objection has been made. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court's “review is limited to determining whether the Commissioner's decision ‘is supported by substantial evidence and was made pursuant to proper legal standards.'” Ealy v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 594 F.3d 504, 512 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007)). “Substantial evidence is ‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'” Lindsley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 560 F.3d 601, 604 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). In determining whether substantial evidence exists, the Court may “look to any evidence in the record, regardless of whether it has been cited by the [Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)].” Heston v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 245 F.3d 528, 535 (6th Cir. 2001). “[T]he claimant bears the burden of producing sufficient evidence to show the existence of a disability.” Watters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 530 F. App'x 419, 425 (6th Cir. 2013).

         II. ANALYSIS

         Henry offers four objections: (i) the magistrate judge erred in finding that the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence; (ii) the magistrate judge erred in holding that the ALJ's findings regarding Henry's recurrent ulcers and extremity cellulitis were supported by substantial evidence; (iii) the magistrate judge erred when she held that the ALJ did not have a duty to re-contact Henry's treating physicians; and (iv) the magistrate judge erred when she affirmed the ALJ's credibility assessment of Henry. The Court concludes that each objection lacks merit.

         A. Objection One

         Henry first argues that the magistrate judge erred in finding that the ALJ's decision to deny benefits was supported by substantial evidence. He argues that “both the ALJ and the Magistrate Judge misconstrued medical evidence and testimony that ultimately, resulted in an inadequate determination to address Plaintiff's multiple severe medical conditions (specifically, mild osteoarthritis of hip; degenerative joint disease of the spine; obesity; and sarcoidosis . . .)[.]” Obj. at 5 (cm/ecf page). He also notes that documentation from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) includes diagnostic testing that supports a finding of severe impairments. Finally, Henry argues that the ALJ improperly rejected his physicians' determination of his residual functional capacity (“RFC”).

         Henry's arguments regarding the VA records are unavailing. While he argues that the ALJ misconstrued this medical evidence, the record indicates that she reviewed the documentation and agreed with the assessment that Henry's mild osteoarthritis of the hip, degenerative joint disease of the spine, obesity, and sarcoidosis qualified as severe impairments. A.R. at 17 (Dkt. 10).

         The denial instead rests on the ALJ's conclusion that, despite Henry's inability to perform his past relevant work, his RFC allowed him to perform other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy. The ALJ found that Henry had the following RFC:

[T]o perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b) except: allowance to change positions every 30 minutes for one to two minutes in the immediate vicinity of the work station with sitting, standing or walking for a total of four hours each; no operation of foot controls, occasional climbing stairs; no climbing ladders and the like or balancing on one lower extremity at [a] time; occasional stooping greater than 90 degrees, kneeling, or crouching; no crawling or exposure to obvious hazards; occasional exposure to temperature extremes, humidity and respiratory irritants; and no fast paced work meaning no work where the pace of productivity is dictated by an external source over which the claimant has no control such as an assembly line or conveyor belt.

A.R. at 19. Henry contends that the ALJ rejected the conclusions of physicians regarding his RFC, stating that “[t]he ALJ is not a medical doctor and should not be making a RFC determination on her own, but should instead rely on the ...


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