United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
AND ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (Doc. 23),
OVERRULING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS (Doc.
24), DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
(Doc. 19), GRANTING THE COMMISSIONER'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT (Doc. 22), AFFIRMING THE ALJ'S DECISION DENYING
BENEFITS, AND DISMISSING THE CASE
COHN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a Social Security case. Plaintiff Jeffrey P. Lundby (Lundby)
appeals the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (Commissioner) denying his application for
Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security
Income (SSI). Lundby claims that he has been disabled since
August 3, 2009, due to stomach problems, depression, and
back, shoulder, elbow, and hand pain.
parties filed cross motions for summary judgment. (Docs. 19,
22). The motions were referred to a magistrate judge (MJ) for
a report and recommendation (MJRR). After the MJRR
recommended that Lundby's motion be denied and the
Commissioner's motion be granted, Lundby filed timely
objections. For the reasons that follow, the Court overrules
Lundby's objections, adopts the MJRR, denies Lundby's
motion for summary judgment, grants the Commissioner's
motion, and affirms the administrative law judge's (ALJ)
decision denying benefits.
parties have not objected to the MJ's recitation of the
procedural history and administrative record, the Court
adopts that portion of the MJRR as if fully set forth herein.
A brief history of the procedural posture follows.
applied for DIB and SSI on August 28, 2013. He alleged
disability as of August 3, 2009.
the Commissioner denied the claims, Lundby requested a
hearing. On January 27, 2015, Lundby appeared with counsel
before an ALJ. At the hearing, Lundby testified on his own
behalf. Following the hearing, Lundby submitted additional
medical evidence, including reports from additional
consultative physical and psychological examinations ordered
by the ALJ. All additional evidence was entered into the
issued a written decision denying Lundby's claims,
finding that Lundby was not disabled. Lundby's date last
insured (DLI) is December 31, 2014.
Appeals Council denied Lundby's request for review,
rendering the decision of the Commissioner final. Lundby
appeals from that decision.
The ALJ's Decision
MJRR summarized the ALJ's decision denying benefits:
On June 26, 2015, ALJ Sasena issued an
“unfavorable” decision. At Step 1 of the
sequential evaluation process,  the ALJ found that Plaintiff has
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 3,
2009, the alleged onset date. At Step 2, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: degenerative
joint disease, degenerative disc disease, a history of
abdominal pain, and major depressive disorder. At Step 3, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the
severity of one of the listed impairments. Prior to Step 4 of
the sequential process, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has
the residual functional capacity
[P]erform light work . . . except that he can occasionally
climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. He should
avoid concentrated exposure to unprotected heights, moving
machinery, and vibrating tools. The claimant is limited to
simple, routine, repetitive tasks that require little
judgment and can be learned in a short period of time. The
claimant should have no interaction with the general public,
but can have occasional interaction with coworkers. He can
work in proximity to others, but not as a team member. The
claimant requires the option to sit or stand, and change
positions after fifteen minutes.
At Step 4, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has past relevant
work as a carpenter, but that he is unable to perform it. At
Step 5, the ALJ found that, considering Plaintiff's age,
education, work experience and RFC, there are jobs that exist
in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff
(Doc. 23 at 3-5).
The Parties' Arguments on Summary Judgment
made three arguments to show that the ALJ's decision was
not supported by substantial evidence. First, Lundby said
that the ALJ failed to properly apply the treating medical
source rule and give controlling weight, rather than
“limited weight, ” to the opinions of
Lundby's treating physicians Dr. Smith and Dr. Billies.
Lundby said the ALJ should have given controlling weight to
the two treating opinions because they were consistent with
one another and with all other medical evidence, and they
imposed limitations that were far in excess of those in the
Lundby said that the ALJ failed to account for his
limitations on fine and gross manipulation, and reaching
overhead. Lundby said that even though every physician
offered an opinion that Lundby had limited use of his upper
extremities, the RFC neither acknowledged those limitations
nor incorporated them.
Lundby said that the ALJ's decision regarding his mental
limitations was unsupported by substantial evidence because
the opinion of his treating therapist, Lisa Wilmot, was
improperly afforded “limited weight, ” while the
opinion of a consulting examiner, Dr. Kirzner, was afforded
“significant weight.” Further, Lundby said that
despite assigning Dr. Kirzner's opinion
“significant weight, ” the ALJ improperly assumed
the role of doctor ...