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Howard v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

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

December 18, 2017

ANTOINETTE MARIE HOWARD, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER (1) OVERRULING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS (ECF #13) TO THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (ECF #12), (2) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF #9), (3) GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF #11), AND (4) ADOPTING RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION IN THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (ECF #12)

          MATTHEW F. LEITMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In this action, Plaintiff Antoinette Marie Howard challenges the denial of her application for disability insurance benefits under the Social Security Act. (See Compl., ECF #1.) Both Howard and Defendant Commissioner of Social Security Administration (the “Commissioner”) filed motions for summary judgment. (See Howard's Mot. Summ. J., ECF #9; Commissioner's Mot. Summ. J., ECF #11.) The assigned Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation in which she recommended that the Court (1) grant the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment and (2) deny Howard's motion for summary judgment (the “R&R”). (See ECF #12.) Howard has filed objections to the R&R (the “Objections”). (See ECF #13.) As set forth below, the Court OVERRULES Howard's Objections, DENIES Howard's motion for summary judgment, GRANTS the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment, and ADOPTS the recommended disposition in the R&R.

         I

         A[1]

         On May 31, 2014, Howard filed her application for disability insurance benefits. (See Admin. R., ECF #7-2 at Pg. ID 41.) She also filed an application for supplemental security income on that same day. (See id.) Howard claimed disability based upon a subarachnoid hemorrhage that resulted from a ruptured aneurysm, right-side stroke, diabetes, aneurysm, and lung collapse. (See Admin R., ECF #7-6 at Pg. ID 218.) Howard also developed and was treated for deep vein thrombosis (“DVT”) after her aneurysm. (See Admin. R., ECF #7-8 at Pg. ID 529-30.) The Social Security Administration (the “SSA”) denied Howard's application for benefits on the ground that Howard was not disabled. (See Admin. R., ECF #7-4 at Pg. ID 130.)

         Howard thereafter requested and received a de novo hearing before an administrative law judge (the “ALJ”). The ALJ held a hearing on January 28, 2016. Howard and an impartial vocational expert testified at the hearing.

         On February 25, 2016, the ALJ issued a written decision in which she affirmed the SSA's denial of benefits. (See Admin. R., ECF #7-2 at Pg. ID 41-56.) The ALJ found that Howard suffered from the following severe impairments: “obesity, minimal osteoarthritis of the right knee, arthralgia of the left hip with hypertrophic bony changes, ruptured aneurysm with subarachnoid hemorrhage, right cerebrovascular accident, generalized anxiety disorder, and cognitive disorder . . . .” (Id. at Pg. ID 44.) The ALJ also determined that Howard had the following non-severe impairments: “diabetes mellitus, hypertension, acute deep venous thrombosis of the legs, acute kidney injury, and anemia.” (Id.) The ALJ specifically noted that Howard “had deep venous thrombosis of the right leg as shown by an April 27, 2014 bilateral lower extremity venous study” but that “there is no evidence of any ongoing symptoms due to this condition, and it appears to have resolved.” (Id.)

         The ALJ concluded that Howard's “statements concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of [her] symptoms are not entirely credible for the reasons explained in this decision.” (Id. at Pg. ID 49.) The ALJ first noted that Howard's employment was more extensive than her testimony suggested:

[C]ontrary to claimant's testimony of working [the home health care services] job only around July 2014, her earnings records indicate that she worked this job prior to her aneurysm and stroke in April 2014 and that she continued to work this job for the Department of Community Health Home through the fourth quarter of 2015.
It [] reflects extremely poorly upon her credibility; she appeared evasive about all of my questions to her regarding this matter.

(Id.)

         The ALJ added that “[a] detailed review of the objective medical evidence reveals that the claimant is not as limited as alleged.” (Id. at Pg. ID 49.) The ALJ explained that the medical records showed Howard had a “dramatic recovery” from her aneurysm and subsequent inpatient rehabilitation. (Id.) The ALJ also noted that Howard's complaints of pain in her right knee and left hip were more recent; there was no evidence in the record that Howard had previously complained of pain in her right elbow; Howard was not seeking treatment for her anxiety; and that Howard did not have any difficulty with her memory at a psychological examination. (See id.)

         The ALJ also highlighted other evidence contradicting Howard's claimed disability. For instance, the ALJ noted that Howard indicated to her physician that “she wanted to adopt a baby and was entering into the foster parent system, ” and the ALJ found that plan to be “inconsistent with [Howard's] stated symptoms and functional limitations.” (Id. at Pg. ID 53.) The ALJ also observed that Howard's report of throbbing pain in her right knee was undercut by a one-year gap of treatment in the record. (Id. at Pg. ID 52-53.)

         The ALJ determined that Howard had the Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work with a number of limitations, including that she should be limited to “more restrictive postural limitations” and “no foot control operation.” (Id. at Pg. ID 47, 53.)

         The ALJ ultimately concluded that Howard was not disabled and that there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Howard could perform. (See Id. at Pg. ID 56.)

         The Appeals Council of the Social Security Commission denied Howard's request to ...


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