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Sandersfield v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

March 29, 2018


          R. Steven Whalen, Magistrate Judge.


          Victoria A. Roberts, United States District Judge.

         I. Background

         On April 3, 2014, Plaintiff Jack David Sandersfield (“Sandersfield”) filed an application for Supplemental Security Income, alleging that he had been disabled since November 6, 2000.[1] After the Commissioner of Social Security (the “Commissioner”) denied Sanderfield's initial claim, he requested an administrative hearing. On October 12, 2017, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Laura Chess issued a decision finding that Sandersfield was not disabled. On January 30, 2017, the Appeals Council declined to review the administrative decision; ALJ Chess' decision became final. Sandersfield filed a motion to remand, which the court is treating as a motion for summary judgment; the Commissioner filed a motion for summary judgment. The Court referred those motions to Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen.

         In his motion to remand, Sandersfield argues that: (1) the hypothetical question which formed the basis of the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) did not account for his full degree of physical and mental limitation; (2) the ALJ erred by declining to find at Step Three of the sequential analysis that he met Listing 1.04(A); (3) the hypothetical question and corresponding RFC did not adequately address workplace limitations brought about by his speech impairment; and (4) the ALJ erred in her assessment of credibility of Sandersfield's allegations of limitation.

         The Commissioner argues in its motion for summary judgment that: (1) substantial evidence supports the ALJ's Step-Three determination that Sandersfield did not meet Listing 1.04(A); (2) substantial evidence supports the ALJ's partial rejection of Sandersfield's subjective statements; and (3) substantial evidence supports the ALJ's assessment of Sandersfield's residual functional capacity and consequent Step-Five determination.

         Magistrate Judge Whalen issued a Report and Recommendation (the “R&R”) recommending that the Court grant the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment and deny Sandersfield's. Magistrate Judge Whalen concluded that the ALJ did not commit legal error and her decision was supported by substantial evidence, because: (1) the ALJ properly discounted Sandersfield's allegations based on contradictory medical and other evidence; (2) Sandersfield did not meet all of the criteria of Listing 1.04(A); and (3) the ALJ's hypothetical question and RFC accounted for all of Sandersfield's workplace limitations.

         Sandersfield claims that Magistrate Judge Whalen made three erroneous findings which this Court should reject: (1) that the ALJ's partial rejection of Sandersfield's complaints was supported by substantial evidence, well-articulated and should not be disturbed; (2) that the ALJ was justified in determining that Sandersfield was not disabled under Listing 1.04(A); and (3) that the hypothetical question and RFC determinations of by the ALJ were accurate and generously within the “zone of choice” afforded to the fact finder at the administrative hearing level.

         II. Standard of Review

         A person may seek judicial review of any final decision of the Commissioner; however, the findings of the Commissioner as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive. 42 U.S.C. § 405.

         “Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance … .” Brainard v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 889 F.2d 679, 681 (6th Cir. 1989) (citing Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). It exists when a reasonable mind could accept the evidence as adequate to support the challenged conclusion, even if that evidence could also support the opposite conclusion. Casey v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 987 F.2d 1230, 1233 (6th Cir. 1993). And, if the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, it must stand, regardless of whether the Court would resolve the disputed facts differently. Bogle v. Sullivan, 998 F.2d 342, 347 (6th Cir. 1993).

         After proper objections are made, the Court conducts a de novo review of a Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation on a dispositive motion. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); F. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3). A court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. Id. A district court need not conduct de novo review where the objections are “[f]rivolous, conclusive or general.” Mira v. Marshall, 806 F.2d 636, 637 (6th Cir.1986) (citation omitted); see also Rice v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 169 F. App'x 452, 453-54 (6th Cir. 2006) (“issues adverted to in a perfunctory manner, unaccompanied by some effort at developed argumentation, are deemed waived.”) (quoting McPherson v. Kelsey, 125 F.3d 989, 995-96 (6th Cir.1997)). After completing a de novo review, there is no requirement that the district court articulate all of the reasons it rejects a party's objections. Tuggle v. Seabold, 806 F.2d 87, 93 (6th Cir. 1986); Dickey-Williams v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 975 F.Supp.2d 792, 798 (E.D. Mich. 2013).

         “[W]hile the Magistrate Judge Act, 28 U.S.C. § 631 et seq., permits de novo review …, absent compelling reasons, it does not allow parties to raise at the district court stage new arguments or issues that were not presented to the magistrate.” Murr v. United States, 200 F.3d 895, 902 n.1 (6th Cir. 2000) “[A] claim raised for the first time in objections to a magistrate judge's report is deemed waived.” Swain v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 379 Fed.Appx. 512, 517-518 (6th Cir. 2010).

         III. ...

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