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Rines v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

October 24, 2017

HAROLD A. RINES, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

         OPINION AND ORDER (1) SUSTAINING IN PART AND OVERRULING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS (ECF #19) TO THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (ECF #18), (2) GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF #13), (3) DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF #16), AND (4) REMANDING FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS

          MATTHEW F. LEITMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         In this action, Plaintiff Harold Rines challenges the denial of his application for disability insurance benefits under the Social Security Act. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment, and the assigned Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation in which he recommended that the Court (1) grant Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's motion for summary judgment and (2) deny Rines' motion for summary judgment (the “R&R”). (See ECF #18) Rines has filed objections to the R&R (the “Objections”). (See ECF #19). The Court has carefully reviewed the R&R and appreciates the Magistrate Judge's careful and thorough consideration of the issues presented. However, as explained below, the Court respectfully disagrees with certain aspects of the Magistrate Judge's analysis and recommended disposition. Accordingly, as set forth below, the Court SUSTAINS IN PART AND OVERRULES IN PART Rines' objections, GRANTS IN PART Rines' motion for summary judgment, DENIES the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment, and REMANDS this action for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion and Order.

         I

         A[1]

         On February 19, 2014, Rines filed his application for disability insurance benefits (the “Application”). (See Admin. R., ECF #11-5 at Pg. ID 204-10.) In the Application, Rines alleged that he became disabled on September 23, 2012. (See Id. at Pg. ID 204.) Rines maintained that he suffered from, among other things, bilateral shoulder pain, a bulging disc, left ankle pain, depression, and anxiety. (See Admin R., ECF #11-6 at Pg. ID 234.) The Social Security Administration (the “SSA”) denied the Application because it found that Rines was not disabled. (See Admin. R., ECF #11-4 at Pg. ID 122-25.)

         Rines thereafter requested and received a de novo hearing before an administrative law judge (the “ALJ”). The ALJ held that hearing on October 16, 2015. Rines and an impartial vocational expert testified at the hearing. Rines testified that the bulging discs in his back “make it hard to sit, stand, and walk, ” that he “lay[s] down ten hours of the day” in part because he cannot sleep at night, and that his wife, who is on oxygen and suffers from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (“COPD”), does all of the grocery shopping and most of the chores around his home. (Admin R., ECF #11-2 at Pg. ID 86-88.)

         Rines also submitted medical records from his treating physician, Dr. Kenneth Price. In August 2014, Dr. Price found that Rines had “no strength in either shoulder, ” and he was “unable to do any standing or walking for any length of time due to ankle pain.” (Admin R., ECF #11-7 at Pg. ID 357.) Dr. Price also noted that Rines suffered from “low back pain from time to time” due to a “herniated lumbar disc.” (Id.) Dr. Price concluded that as a result of Rines' shoulder, ankle, and back problems, Rines had “permanent physical limitations” that made him “unable to work.” (Id.) In January 2015, Dr. Price drafted a medical source statement which stated that Rines was “unable to lift or carry more than 5 [pounds]” and could not “bring [his] shoulders above chest level.” (Id. at Pg. ID 364-67.)

         On November 13, 2015, the ALJ issued a written decision in which he affirmed the SSA's denial of benefits. (See Admin. R., ECF #11-2 at Pg. ID 47-55.) The ALJ found that Rines suffered from the following severe impairments: “Status post bilateral shoulder surgeries, lumbar herniated disc, [and] affective and anxiety disorders.” (Id. at Pg. ID 49.) The ALJ nonetheless concluded that Rines was not disabled and that there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Rines could perform. (See Id. at Pg. ID 54-55.)

         In reaching this conclusion, the ALJ gave “no weight” to Dr. Price's opinions. (Id. at Pg. ID 53.) The ALJ summarized Dr. Price's opinions, and then rejected them in four sentences:

These opinions are not consistent with or supported by the record as a whole. In addition, these opinions are after claimant's date last insured. Furthermore, Dr. Price is not a specialist and the issue of disability is reserved for the commissioner. Therefore, I give [Dr. Price's] opinions no weight.

(Id.)

         The ALJ also rejected Rines' testimony that his symptoms rendered him disabled and unable to work. The ALJ concluded that Rines' “statements concerning the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of [his] symptoms [were] not entirely credible.” (Id. at Pg. ID 52.)

         B

         On November 2, 2016, Rines filed this action in which he challenges the SSA's denial of benefits. (See Compl., ECF #1.) Rines and the Commissioner then filed cross-motions for summary judgment. (See Rines' Mot. Summ. J., ECF #13; Commissioner's Mot. Summ. J., ECF #16.)

         The Court referred the cross-motions to the assigned Magistrate Judge. On September 6, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued the R&R in which he carefully analyzed the arguments that parties made in their motions for summary judgment. (See R&R, ECF #18.) The Magistrate Judge first reviewed whether the ALJ “properly evaluated the opinions of Rines' treating physician Dr. Price.” (Id. at Pg. ID 462-67.) The Magistrate Judge ultimately concluded that “the ALJ's decision to discount Dr. Price's opinions [was] supported by substantial evidence.” (Id. at Pg. ID 467.) Next, the Magistrate Judge reviewed the ALJ's “assessment of Rines' subjective complaints.” (Id. at Pg. ID 468-71.) Here too, the Magistrate Judge concluded that the ALJ's credibility determination was ...


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