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Gregory v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

September 15, 2017

SANDRA R. GREGORY, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

         OPINION AND ORDER (1) OVERRULING DEFENDANT'S OBJECTION (ECF #31) TO THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (ECF #30), (2) ADOPTING RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION OF REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION, (3) DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF #23), (4) GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF #29), AND (5) REMANDING APPLICATION FOR BENEFITS FOR FURTHER ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

          MATTHEW F. LEITMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In this action, Plaintiff Sandra R. Gregory challenges the denial of her application for supplemental security income (“SSI”). After the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, the assigned Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation in which he recommended that the Court (1) deny Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's motion for summary judgment and (2) grant Gregory's motion for summary judgment to the extent that Gregory requests her application for benefits be remanded to the Commissioner for further administrative proceedings (the “R&R”). (See ECF #30.) The Commissioner filed a timely objection to the R&R (the “Objection”). (See ECF #31.) The Court has conducted a de novo review of the portions of the R&R to which the Commissioner has objected. For the reasons stated below, the Court OVERRULES the Objection, ADOPTS the recommended disposition of the R&R, GRANTS Gregory's motion for summary judgment in part, DENIES the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment, and REMANDS this action for further administrative proceedings.

         I

         A[1]

         On July 29, 2013, Gregory filed her application for SSI (the “Application”). (See Admin. R., ECF #10-5 at Pg. ID 149-54.) In the Application, Gregory alleged that she became disabled on July 31, 2011. (See id.) She later amended the onset date of disability to July 29, 2013. (See Id. at Pg. ID 176.) Gregory said in the Application that she suffered from, among other things, bilateral knee pain, hypertension, and back pain. (See Admin R., ECF #10-6 at Pg. ID 182.) The Social Security Administration (the “SSA”) denied the Application because it found that Gregory was not disabled. (See Admin. R., ECF #10-4 at Pg. ID 96-99.)

         Gregory thereafter requested and received a de novo hearing before administrative law judge Dennis M. Matulewicz (the “ALJ”). The ALJ held that hearing on January 16, 2015. Gregory and an impartial vocational expert testified at the hearing. In addition, Gregory submitted treatment notes from her treating physician, Dr. Rose Ibrahim of the Romulus Medical Clinic. (See Admin R., ECF #10-7 at Pg. ID 263, 270-80.) Gregory saw Dr. Ibrahim on at least nine occasions between July 2013 and June 2014. (See id.) Dr. Ibrahim diagnosed Gregory with osteoarthritis and scoliosis, and at various times she prescribed Gregory pain medication and physical therapy, referred Gregory to a bone doctor, and restricted Gregory from the physical activities of lifting, pulling, and/or pushing. (See id.)

         On March 6, 2015, the ALJ issued a written decision in which he affirmed the SSA's denial of benefits. (See Admin. R., ECF #10-2 at Pg. ID 41-48.) In the ALJ's decision, he found that Gregory suffered from the following severe impairments: “Moderate Joint Effusion of the Right Knee with mild size Baker's Cyst, Mild Spondylosis, Hypertension, and Left Knee Meniscus Tear.” (Id. at Pg. ID 43.) The ALJ nonetheless concluded that Gregory was not disabled and that there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Gregory could perform. (See Id. at Pg. ID 47-48.) In reaching this conclusion, the ALJ gave “no weight” to Dr. Ibrahim's opinion. (Id. at Pg. ID 46.) The ALJ's analysis of Dr. Ibrahim's opinion, in full, was three sentences:

During treatment at the Romulus Medical Clinic, the claimant was instructed against lifting, pushing, or pulling, to attend physical therapy twice a week, to lose weight, diet, and exercise. However, these instructions are vague, as they do not specify the particulars of the claimant's functionality, and they are non-durational. Accordingly, the undersigned assigns no weight to this opinion.

(Id.; internal citation omitted).

         B

         On July 8, 2016, Gregory filed this action in which she challenges the SSA's denial of benefits. (See Compl., ECF #1.) Gregory and the Commissioner then filed cross-motions for summary judgment. (See Gregory's Mot. Summ. J., ECF #29; Commissioner's Mot. Summ. J., ECF #23.)

         The Court referred the cross-motions to the assigned Magistrate Judge. On August 16, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued the R&R in which he recommended that the Court deny the Commissioner's motion and grant Gregory's motion to the extent she seeks a remand of the Application to the Commissioner for further administrative proceedings. (See R&R, ECF #20.) In arriving at this recommendation, the Magistrate Judge carefully analyzed the arguments that the Commissioner made in her motion for summary judgment. The Magistrate Judge ultimately concluded that the ALJ failed to provide “good reasons” for according “no weight” to the opinion of Gregory's treating physician, Dr. Ibrahim, and that this failure “require[d] a remand for further proceedings.” (Id. at Pg. ID 462-65.)

         On August 24, 2017, the Commissioner filed the Objection. (See ECF #21.) In the Objection, the Commissioner argues that the Magistrate Judge “incorrectly applied the treating source rule to the opinion of Dr. Rose Ibrahim.” (Id. at Pg. ID 471.) The Commissioner insists that the ALJ properly ...


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