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Harden v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

September 29, 2017

SHERRY HARDEN, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          HON. STEPHANIE D. DAVIS J.

          OPINION AND ORDER OVERRULING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS TO REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (DKT. 25) AND ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (DKT. 24)

          TERRENCE G. BERG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This is a Social Security appeal brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). At issue is whether the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred as a matter of law in finding that Plaintiff was not eligible to receive Social Security benefits and whether that finding is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole.

         Before the Court is Magistrate Judge Stephanie Dawkins Davis's August 24, 2017 Report and Recommendation (hereinafter “R&R”) (Dkt. 24). Magistrate Judge Davis concluded that the ALJ's denial of Social Security disability benefits was correct and therefore recommends that the Court deny Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 16), grant Defendant's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 21), and affirm the findings of the Commissioner. Dkt. 24, Pg. ID 979. Plaintiff Sherry Harden filed Objections to the Magistrate's R&R (Dkt. 25).

         I. BACKGROUND

         The relevant facts in this case were summarized in Magistrate Judge Davis's R&R, Dkt. 24, Pg. IDs 956-65, and those facts are adopted for purposes of this order. Plaintiff raises four objections to the R&R, Dkt. 25, to which the Commissioner has responded. Dkt. 26. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's objections are OVERRULED, Judge Davis's R&R is AFFIRMED, Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is DENIED, defendant's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED, and the findings of the Commissioner are AFFIRMED.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Any party may object to and seek review of an R&R, but must act within fourteen days of service of the R&R. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2). Failure to file specific objections constitutes a waiver of any further right of appeal. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140 (1985). Filing objections which raise some issues but fail to raise others with specificity will not preserve all objections a party has to an R&R. Willis v. Secretary of HHS, 931 F.2d 390, 401 (6th Cir. 1991). The district court must make 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)(c). The district court judge may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. Id.

         As noted in Judge Davis's R&R, “[i]n enacting the social security system, Congress created a two-tiered system in which the administrative agency handles claims, and the judiciary merely reviews the agency determination for exceeding statutory authority or for being arbitrary and capricious.” Dkt. 24, Pg. ID 965 (citing Sullivan v. Zebley, 493 U.S. 521 (1990)). Accordingly, this Court has original jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's final administrative decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). In so reviewing, this Court “must affirm the Commissioner's conclusions absent a determination that the Commissioner has failed to apply the correct legal standard or has made findings of fact unsupported by substantial evidence in the record.” Longworth v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 402 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir. 2005). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept to support the ALJ's conclusion.” Bass v. McMahon, 499 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 2007) (quotation marks omitted) (quoting Foster v. Halter, 279 F.3d 348, 353 (6th Cir. 2001)). This substantial evidence standard is less exacting than the preponderance of evidence standard. See Bass, 499 F.3d at 509 (citing Bell v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 105 F.3d 244, 246 (6th Cir. 1996)). The reviewing court may not reverse the Commissioner's decision merely because it disagrees or because “there exists in the record substantial evidence to support a different conclusion.” McClanahan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 474 F.3d 830, 833 (6th Cir. 2006).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff raises four objections to Magistrate Judge Davis's recommendation that the Court deny Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, grant Defendant's motion for summary judgment, and affirm the findings of the Commissioner. Dkt. 24, Pg. ID 979.

1. The R&R erred in recommending a finding that the ALJ properly evaluated Plaintiff's foot condition and the effects of her foot surgery;
2. The R&R erred in recommending a finding that the ALJ provided good reasons supported by substantial evidence for rejecting Plaintiff's credibility;
3. The R&R erred in recommending a finding that Dr. Czesnowski's opinion concerning Plaintiff's limitations was not a “medical opinion” and that the ALJ properly evaluated it;
4. The R&R erred in recommending a finding that the ALJ had no duty to inquire about apparent conflicts between the Vocational Expert (“VE”) testimony and the Dictionary ...

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