Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Vitale v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

September 28, 2017

Donna Vitale, Plaintiff,
v.
Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING IN PART AND REJECTING IN PART 9/1/2017 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Sean F. Cox United States District Judge.

         Background

         Plaintiff Donna Vitale brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), challenging Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's decision disallowing benefits. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment (Doc. # 14 and 18), which were referred to Magistrate Judge Stephanie Dawkins Davis for a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). On September 1, 2017, the magistrate judge issued an R&R (Doc. # 20) wherein she recommended that Plaintiff's motion be granted, Defendant's motion be denied, the findings of the Commissioner be reversed, and that the matter be remanded for further proceedings.

         Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b), a party objecting to the recommended disposition of a matter by a magistrate judge must file objections to the R&R within fourteen (14) days after being served with a copy of the R&R. “The district judge must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to.” Id. Defendant timely filed objections to the R&R (Doc. # 21) and Plaintiff has responded (Doc. # 22).

         Analysis

         I. The Opinion of Dr. Petrilli

         The Commissioner's first three objections pertain to the magistrate judge's determination that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in its assessment of the opinion of one of Plaintiff's treating physicians, Dr. Anthony Petrilli. The magistrate judge concluded that the ALJ failed to properly apply the analysis set forth in Gayheart v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 710 F.3d 365 (6th Cir. 2013), for deciding whether a treating physician's opinion should be given controlling weight. The magistrate judge concluded that the ALJ failed to provide good reasons for discounting the weight of Dr. Petrilli's opinion because she failed to discuss whether Dr. Petrilli's opinion was well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and failed to properly assess the opinion's inconsistency with other substantial evidence. The magistrate judge opined that the ALJ's decision failed to articulate what medical evidence was relied upon for its decision to discount the weight of Dr. Petrilli's opinion. The magistrate judge also determined that these errors were not harmless. Accordingly, the magistrate judge recommended reversing and remanding for further proceedings.

         Generally, “an opinion from a medical source who has examined a claimant is given more weight than that from a source who has not performed an examination . . .” Gayheart, 710 F.3d at 375; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1502; § 404.1527(c)(1). “Treating-source opinions must be given ‘controlling weight' if two conditions are met: (1) the opinion ‘is well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques'; and (2) the opinion ‘is not inconsistent with the other substantial evidence in [the] case record.' ” Id. at 376, quoting § 404.1527(c)(2).

         The Commissioner must provide “good reasons” for discounting the weight given to a treating-source opinion. Id., citing § 404.1527(c)(2). These reasons must be “supported by the evidence in the case record, and must be sufficiently specific to make clear to any subsequent reviewers the weight the adjudicator gave to the treating source's medical opinion and the reasons for that weight.” Id., quoting Soc. Sec. Rul. No. 96-2p, 1996 WL 374188, at *5 (Soc. Sec. Admin. July 2, 1996). This requirement permits meaningful review of the ALJ's application of these procedural rules by ensuring that it will be sufficiently clear to subsequent reviewers the weight given to the treating source's medical opinion and the reasons for that weight. Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 378 F.3d 541, 544 (6th Cir. 2004).

         In this case, the ALJ addressed Dr. Petrilli's opinion as follows:

The opinions of Anthony Petrilli, MD, set forth in 18F, are given little weight, as the medical evidence of record and the claimant's activities of daily living do not support the marked limitations (18F/102). Further, there is not significant durational treatment of the claimant by Dr. Petrilli, (18F/1-2 and 4-5). Also, Dr. Petrilli noted his belief that the claimant is disabled (18F/3). However, this is a matter reserved to the Commissioner of Social Security, under Social Security Ruling 96-5p, so this statement is not entitled to any weight. Finally, a portion of the opinion is not signed by Dr. Petrilli (18F/4-5) and this also renders it less persuasive.

         The ALJ's Decision (Doc. # 10-2, p. 20).

         Respectfully, the Court disagrees with the magistrate judge's report and recommendation and concludes that the ALJ met its obligation to provide good reasons for giving less weight to Dr. Petrilli's opinion. To be given controlling weight, a treating source opinion must be “well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques” and not be “inconsistent with other substantial evidence in [the] case record.” Gayheart, 710 F.3d at 376. The Court agrees with the magistrate judge that the ALJ failed to identify how Dr. Petrilli's opinion was not well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. But this omission is not fatal to the ALJ's analysis. For Dr. Petrilli's opinion to be entitled to controlling weight, both prongs enumerated in Gayheart had to be met.

         The ALJ's decision stated that “the medical evidence of record and Plaintiff's activities of daily living do not support marked limitations.” (Doc. # 10-2, p. 20). Although the ALJ did not expressly discuss this evidence in the portion of its decision declining to give Dr. Petrilli's opinion controlling weight, this is not an instance where the Court cannot determine what evidence the ALJ relied upon to substantiate her conclusion. See Dickey-Williams v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 975 F.Supp.2d 792, 804 (E.D. Mich. 2013). The ALJ's assessment of Dr. Petrilli's opinion, read together with the ALJ's decision as a whole, see Athey v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 2014 WL 4537317 at *4 (E.D. Mich. 2014); Rice v. Barnhart, 384 F.3d 363, 370 n. 5 (7th Cir. 2004) (“[I]t is proper to read the ALJ's decision as a whole . . .”), is sufficiently specific to indicate the ALJ's good reasons for determining that Dr. Petrilli's opinion was inconsistent with the other ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.