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Davis v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

September 28, 2017

TERRI E. DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          MARIANNE O. BATTANI, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Terri E. Davis' objections (Doc. 20) to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation ("R&R") (Doc. 19). Davis filed an action seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Defendant Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Each side filed a motion for summary judgment (Doc. 14; Doc. 15).

         The matter was referred to Magistrate Judge R. Stephen Whalen, who found that substantial evidence supported the Administrative Law Judge's ("ALJ") and the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. (Doc. 19). For the reasons stated below, the Court ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge's R&R; GRANTS Defendant's motion for summary judgment and DENIES Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Davis filed the present action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), challenging the final decision of the Commissioner, who rendered an unfavorable decision on February 23, 2015, denying Davis' applications for Disability Insurance Benefits under the Social Security Act. Davis asserts that the Commissioner's decision is not based upon substantial evidence. (Doc. 1; Doc. 14).

         The matter was referred to Magistrate Judge Whalen for determination of all non-dispositive motions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and issuance of a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and (C). Each side filed a motion for summary judgment (Doc. 14; Doc. 15). Magistrate Judge Whalen found that the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards and made findings of fact that were supported by substantial evidence in the record, and recommended that the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment be granted, that Davis' motion for summary judgment be denied, and that the ALJ's decision be affirmed. (Doc. 19).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A district court must conduct a de novo review of the parts of a Magistrate Judge's R&R to which a party objects. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The district court "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate." ]g\ The requirement of de novo review "is a statutory recognition that Article III of the United States Constitution mandates that the judicial power of the United States be vested in judges with life tenure." United States v. Shami, 754 F.2d 670, 672 (6th Cir.1985). Accordingly, Congress enacted 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) to "insure[ ] that the district judge would be the final arbiter" of a matter referred to a magistrate judge. Flournoy v. Marshall, 842 F.2d 875, 878 (6th Cir.1987).

         The Court must affirm the Commissioner's conclusions so long as the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards and made findings of fact that are supported by substantial evidence in the record. Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 127 F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997). Substantial evidence is evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate evidence in support a conclusion. ]d. This means that administrative findings

are not subject to reversal merely because substantial evidence exists in the record to support a different conclusion. The substantial evidence standard presupposes that there is a 'zone of choice' within which the [Commissioner] may proceed without interference from the courts. If the [administrative] decision is supported by substantial evidence, a reviewing court must affirm.

Felisky v. Bowen, 35 F.3d 1027, 1035 (6th Cir. 1994) (citations omitted). The Sixth Circuit has further explained, "[i]f supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's decision must be affirmed, even if the reviewing court would decide the case differently and even if the claimant's position is also supported by substantial evidence. Linscomb v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 25 Fed.Appx. 264, 266 (6th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Davis raises two objections to the R&R. First, Davis contends that the Magistrate Judge erred in supporting the ALJ's hypothetical(s) to the Vocational Expert ("VE"). Second, Davis asserts that the Magistrate Judge erred in supporting the ALJ's credibility determination. These objections will be addressed in turn below.

         A. Hypothetical to Vocational ...


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