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Nattress v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

March 13, 2018

SUZANNE M. NATTRESS, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER (1) ADOPTING MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S FEBRUARY 21, 2018 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [ECF NO. 15]; (2) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF NO. 11]; AND (3) GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF NO. 13]

          LINDA V. PARKER U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on November 9, 2016, challenging Defendant's final decision denying her application for benefits under the Social Security Act. On the same date, the matter was referred to Magistrate Judge Stephanie Dawkins Davis for all pretrial proceedings, including a hearing and determination of all non-dispositive matters pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and/or a report and recommendation (“R&R”) on all dispositive matters pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). (ECF No. 2.) The parties subsequently filed cross-motions for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 11, 13.)

         On February 21, 2018, Magistrate Judge Davis issued an R&R in which she recommends that this Court deny Plaintiff's motion, grant Defendant's motion, and affirm Defendant's decision finding Plaintiff not disabled under the Social Security Act. (ECF No. 15.) Magistrate Judge Davis first rejects Plaintiff's argument that the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) erred in assigning significant weight to the opinion of non-examining psychologist Edward Czarnecki, Ph.D. (Id. at Pg ID 540-43.) Magistrate Judge Davis next rejects Plaintiff's claim that the ALJ erred in discounting her lower Global Assessment of Functioning (“GAF”) scores. (Id. at Pg ID 546-48.)

         Magistrate Judge Davis concludes by advising the parties that they may object to and seek review of the R&R within fourteen days of service upon them. (Id. at Pg ID 548.) She further specifically advises the parties that “[f]ailure to file specific objections constitutes a waiver of any further right to appeal.” (Id.) Plaintiff filed objections on March 6, 2018. (ECF No. 16.)

         Standard of Review

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g):

Any individual, after any final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security made after a hearing to which he was a party . . . may obtain a review of such decision by a civil action . . . The court shall have the power to enter . . . a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing. The findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive . . .

42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (emphasis added); see also Boyes v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 46 F.3d 510, 511-12 (6th Cir. 1994). “Substantial evidence is defined as ‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'” Abbott v. Sullivan, 905 F.2d 918, 922-23 (6th Cir. 1990) (quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). The Commissioner's findings are not subject to reversal because substantial evidence exists in the record to support a different conclusion. Mullen v. Brown, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986) (citing Baker v. Kechler, 730 F.2d 1147, 1150 (8th Cir. 1984)). If the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, a reviewing court must affirm. Studaway v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 815 F.2d 1074, 1076 (6th Cir. 1987).

         When objections are filed to a magistrate judge's R&R on a dispositive matter, the Court “make[s] 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). The Court, however, “is not required to articulate all of the reasons it rejects a party's objections.” Thomas v. Halter, 131 F.Supp.2d 942, 944 (E.D. Mich. 2001) (citations omitted). A party's failure to file objections to certain conclusions of the report and recommendation waives any further right to appeal on those issues. See Smith v. Detroit Fed'n of Teachers Local 231, 829 F.2d 1370, 1373 (6th Cir. 1987). Likewise, the failure to object to certain conclusions in the magistrate judge's report releases the Court from its duty to independently review those issues. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149 (1985).

         The ALJ's Decision and the R&R

         An ALJ considering a disability claim is required to follow a five-step sequential process to evaluate the claim. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4). The five-step process is as follows:

1. At the first step, the ALJ considers whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i).
2. At the second step, the ALJ considers whether the claimant has a severe medically determinable physical or mental impairment that meets the duration requirement of the regulations and which significantly limits the claimant's ability to do basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii) and (c).
3. At the third step, the ALJ again considers the medical severity of the claimant's impairment to determine whether the impairment meets or equals an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. 20 C.F.R. ยง 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). If the claimant's impairment meets any ...

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