United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
BRIAN S. VanWORMER, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
AND ORDER (1) ADOPTING MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S JULY 13, 2017
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT [17, 25]; (2) DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT; AND (3) GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR
V. PARKER U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
August 16, 2016, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit challenging
Defendant's final decision denying his application for
disability insurance benefits under the Social Security Act.
(ECF No. 1.) This matter was referred to Magistrate Judge
David R. Grand for all pretrial proceedings, including a
hearing and determination of all non-dispositive matters
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and/or a report and
recommendation (“R&R”) on all dispositive matters
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). (ECF No. 4.) The
parties subsequently filed cross-motions for summary
judgment. (ECF Nos. 17, 25.)
13, 2017, Magistrate Judge Grand issued his R&R in which he
recommends that this Court deny Defendant's motion, grant
Plaintiff's motion and remand the matter to the
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) to obtain a
medical expert opinion for Plaintiff's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) (ECF No. 27.) In his
thorough analysis, Magistrate Judge Grand rejected
Defendant's argument that the ALJ was capable of
independently determining Plaintiff's RFC. (Id.
at Pg ID 435.) Magistrate Judge Grand emphasized that based
on the medical evidence, Plaintiff's physical impairment
was of such a nature that the ALJ could not make a
“commonsense” determination as to Plaintiff's
functional limitations and a medical opinion was required.
(Id. at 435-36.)
Judge Grand concludes by advising the parties that they may
object to and seek review of the R&R within fourteen days of
service upon them. (Id. at 437.) Specifically, he
further advises the parties that “[f]ailure to timely
file objections constitutes a waiver of any further right to
appeal.” (Id.) Defendant filed objections on
July 27, 2017. (ECF No. 28.) Plaintiff responded to
Defendant's objections on August 10, 2017. (ECF No. 29.)
Standard of Review
objections are filed to a magistrate judge's R&R on a
dispositive matter, the Court “make[s] a de novo
determination of those portions of the report or specified
proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is
made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The Court, however,
“is not required to articulate all of the reasons it
rejects a party's objections.” Thomas v.
Halter, 131 F.Supp.2d 942, 944 (E.D. Mich. 2001)
(citations omitted). A party's failure to file objections
to certain conclusions of the report and recommendation
waives any further right to appeal on those issues. See
Smith v. Detroit Fed'n of Teachers Local 231, 829
F.2d 1370, 1373 (6th Cir. 1987). Likewise, the failure to
object to certain conclusions in the magistrate judge's
report releases the Court from its duty to independently
review those issues. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S.
140, 149 (1985).
Applicable Law & Analysis
sole objection is that the magistrate judge erred when he
found that the ALJ's decision was not supported by
substantial evidence. (ECF No. 28 at Pg ID 439.) Defendant
argues that a medical opinion was not required to correspond
to the ALJ's RFC finding because the objective medical
evidence supported a finding that Plaintiff had “few
physical impairments.” (Id. at 440, 443).
Also, Defendant argues that Plaintiff did not provide the ALJ
with any evidence of his physical limitations by a treating
or examining official, and “it was Plaintiff's
burden, not the Commissioner's, to prove his RFC.”
(Id. at 439, 447.)
well established that “[t]he ALJ reserves the right to
decide certain issues, such as a claimant's RFC.
Nevertheless, in assessing a claimant's RFC, an ALJ must
consider all relevant record evidence, including medical
source opinions on the severity of a claimant's
impairments.” Sparck v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., No. 11-10521, 2012 WL 4009650, at *9 (E.D. Mich.
Aug. 23, 2012) (citations omitted). The “Court has
stressed the importance of medical opinions to support a
claimant's RFC, and cautioned ALJs against relying on
their own expertise in drawing RFC conclusions from raw
medical data.” Lindsey v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., No. 12-12585, 2013 WL 6095545, at *7 (E.D. Mich.
Nov. 20, 2013) (citing Wyatt v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., No. 12-11406, 2013 WL 4483074, at *16 (E.D. Mich.
Aug. 19, 2013); Sparck, 2012 WL 4009650, at *12
(“The residual functional capacity opinions of treating
physicians, consultative physicians, and medical experts who
testify at hearings are crucial to determining a
claimant's RFC because ‘[i]n making the residual
functional capacity finding, the ALJ may not interpret raw
medical data in functional terms.'”) (citing
Isaacs v. Astrue, No. 08-cv-00828, 2009 WL 3672060,
at *10 (S.D. Ohio 2009).
the court in Lyndsey recognized that there are
instances when the ALJ can make a commonsense judgment about
a claimant's RFC absent a medical opinion, the court
emphasized that such a finding is appropriate only when the
“medical evidence shows relatively little physical
impairment.” Lyndsey, 2013 WL 4483074 at *7.
Ultimately, because Lyndsey was not a case of
“relatively little physical impairment, ” the
court remanded the case on the basis that a qualified medical
opinion was necessary in order for the ALJ to accurately
determine the plaintiff's functional capacity.
Lyndsey, 2013 WL 4483074 at *7; see also
Wyatt, 2013 WL 4483074, at *17 (“[T]here was no
medical opinion to support the ALJ's RFC determination.
The ALJ impermissibly relied on his own interpretation of the
medical data of record; therefore, the ALJ's RFC
determination is unsupported by substantial evidence. This
case should be remanded for a redetermination of
cites to Rudd v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. 531 F.
App'x 719 (6th Cir. 2013) to support his contention that
a medical opinion was not necessary for the ALJ to determine
Plaintiff's RFC. However, Defendant's interpretation
of Rudd is misplaced because the ALJ did not
determine plaintiff's functional capacity based on the
ALJ's own interpretation of raw medical data as the ALJ
has done in this case. In Rudd, there was testimony
from a radiologist who had interpreted the plaintiff's
raw medical data. Rudd, 531 F. App'x at 727. The
Sixth Circuit found that “the ALJ did not interpret raw
medical data beyond her ability. The x-rays of Rudd's
hands and lumbar spine, which were the only raw medical data,
had already been read and interpreted by a
radiologist.” Id. Further, the Court found in
light of the radiologist's interpretation of the raw
data, a medical expert was not necessary, and the ALJ's
determination was supported by substantial evidence.
on Wagner v. Comm'r Soc. Sec., No. 15-11553,
2016 WL 1729553 (E.D. Mich. Mar. 22, 2016), Defendant asserts
that even if there is a medical opinion, the ALJ is not bound
to a physician's RFC assessment. (ECF No. 28 at Pg ID
440.) This is not inconsistent with the R&R. In
Wagner, the ALJ chose to credit the opinion of a
physician whose RFC assessment was consistent with the
medical evidence but unfavorable to the plaintiff. The court
found that the ALJ was not required to conform its findings
to a physician's RFC assessment when the ALJ's
finding was supported by substantial evidence in the record.
See Poe v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 342 F. App'x
149, 156-57 (6th Cir. 2009) ...