United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER (1) OVERRULING DEFENDANT'S
OBJECTION, (2) ADOPTING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
RECOMMENDATION, (3) GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, AND (4) DENYING
DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
H. CLELAND, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Lynn Solack appeals from Defendant Commissioner of Social
Security's decision denying her disability insurance
benefits under the Social Security Act. See 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). Magistrate Judge David R. Grand issued
a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) advising
the court to deny Defendant's motion for summary
judgment, grant in part Plaintiff's motion for summary
judgment to the extent it seeks remand, deny in part the
Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment to the extent it
seeks an award of benefits, and remand the case to the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) for further
proceedings consistent with the R&R. (Dkt. #12.)
Defendant filed an objection. (Dkt. #14.) The court has
determined that a hearing is unnecessary. E.D. Mich. L.R.
7.1(f)(2). For the reasons stated below and in the
well-reasoned R&R, the court will overrule
Defendant's objection, adopt the R&R, and remand for
party files timely objections to an R&R, the court is
required to “make a de novo determination of
those portions of the report or specified findings or
recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1); see also United States v. Raddatz,
447 U.S. 667 (1980); Gant v. Genco I, Inc., 274 F.
App'x 429, 431- 32 (6th Cir. 2008). The court then
re-examines all evidence relevant to the objected-to portion
of the R&R and determines whether the recommendation
should be accepted, rejected, or modified in whole or in
part. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
filing of objections provides the district court with the
opportunity to consider the specific contentions of the
parties and to correct any errors immediately, ”
United States v. Walters, 638 F.2d 947, 950 (6th
Cir. 1981), enabling the court “to focus attention on
those issues-factual and legal-that are at the heart of the
parties' dispute, ” Thomas v. Arn, 474
U.S. 140, 147 (1985). As a result, “‘[o]nly those
specific objections to the magistrate's report made to
the district court will be preserved for appellate review;
making some objections but failing to raise others will not
preserve all the objections a party may have.'”
Alspaugh v. McConnell, 643 F.3d 162, 166 (6th Cir.
2011) (quoting Willis v. Sullivan, 931 F.2d 390, 401
(6th Cir. 1991)).
court recounts only those portions of this case that are
relevant to its opinion.
to the Commissioner's regulations,
“disability” for the purpose of disability
insurance benefits is determined through the application of a
five-step sequential analysis. Step Three of that analysis
asks, in part, whether the claimant has a severe impairment
that “meets a listed impairment” in the
Commissioner's regulations. Heston v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 245 F.3d 528, 534 (6th Cir. 2001).
February 2014, a state agency medical consultant opined that
Plaintiff did not meet or medically equal Listing 1.02 in the
Listing of Impairments. The ALJ, apparently relying on this
opinion, found that Plaintiff did not meet or medically equal
the specific criteria of any of the listed impairments.
thoroughly reviewing the record, Judge Grand found that it
contained substantial medical evidence, generated after the
February 2014 opinion, that reasonably could have changed the
medical consultant's opinion as to whether Plaintiff
medically equals Listing 1.02A. In particular, subsequent
evidence showed an apparent worsening in Plaintiff's
condition. (See Dkt. #13 Pg. ID 591-92 (documenting
evidence of a potential worsening).) Judge Grand therefore
determined that the ALJ's conclusion in this case-that
Plaintiff is not disabled under the terms of the Social
Security Act-is not supported by substantial evidence.
(See Dkt. #12.)
raises one objection Judge Grand's R&R: that it
ignores the ALJ's discretion to determine whether an
updated opinion was necessary and disregards the ALJ's
credibility findings. The court disagrees and will overrule
“must obtain an updated medical opinion from a medical
expert” when “additional medical evidence is
received that in the opinion of the administrative law judge
. . . may change the State agency medical . . .
consultant's finding that the impairment(s) is not
equivalent in severity to any impairment in the Listing of
Impairments.” SSR 96-6p; Courter v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 479 F. App'x 713, 723 (6th Cir. 2012).
The Commissioner has discretion to decide whether an updated
decision is warranted. Id. Thus, where a
Commissioner explicitly or implicitly decides “that the
records would not change the opinions of the experts, ”
no updated medical opinion is necessary. Id.
Defendant argues that the ALJ implicitly decided that an
updated medical opinion would not change the ALJ's
conclusion. According to Defendant, “[t]he ALJ did not
obtain an updated opinion during her analysis, which shows
[that] the ALJ did not believe one was necessary.”
(Dkt. #14 Pg. ID 606.) But, as Judge Grand noted in the
R&R, “where the ALJ made no mention of the
documented worsening of Solack's condition after February
of 2014-and, indeed, seemed to suggest there was no such
deterioration-the [c]ourt simply cannot conclude that the ALJ
‘implicitly' decided that this evidence would not