United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
Patricia T. Morris Judge
OPINION AND ORDER ACCEPTING MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S
RECOMMENDATION , DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT , AND GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT 
J. MICHELSON U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
the 1980s until 2012, John Rankin worked as a stacker in a
steel mill. Rankin long had deformities to his toes that
limited his ability to stand for long shifts. And in 2012,
the pain drove him to stop working at the mill. His foot
problems continued to worsen. Since 2014, Rankin has suffered
from serious pain and trouble walking.
applied for Social Security disability insurance and
supplemental security income benefits, claiming the foot pain
kept him from full-time employment since 2014. After the
Commissioner of Social Security denied Rankin's
applications, Rankin requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge. In January 2016, the ALJ ruled that
Rankin was not disabled as that term is defined in the Social
Security Act. The Commissioner denied Rankin's request
for further review, making the ALJ's disability
determination the Commissioner's final decision.
then filed this suit, asking the Court to reverse the
Commissioner's determination that he is not disabled. (R.
1, PID 3.) The Court referred the parties' motions for
summary judgment to Magistrate Judge Patricia T. Morris. She
recommends that this Court affirm the decision that Rankin is
not disabled under the Social Security Act. (R. 23.)
objects. He says the magistrate judge erred by concluding
that (1) the ALJ properly applied the treating-physician rule
and (2) the ALJ rightly found no objective medical evidence
to support three of the treating physician's opinions.
(R. 23, PID 537-42.)
Court takes the objections in order. And having conducted a
de novo review of each one, see 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3), the Court will
first objection concerns the magistrate judge's
conclusion that the ALJ properly applied the
treating-physician rule. (R. 26, PID 537-38.) Rankin's
treating physician opined on a medical-assessment form that,
even if Rankin had to work a job falling within the
sedentary-exertion classification, Rankin's foot problems
necessitated several, unscheduled breaks during an eight-hour
shift. (R. 11, PID 403.) The ALJ discounted the treating
physician's opinion as to Rankin's ability to work at
the sedentary level, as that conclusion is one reserved to
the Commissioner's discretion (R. 11, PID 48). 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1527(d); SSR 96-2p, 1996 WL 374188, at *1-2 (July
reviewing the ALJ's decision, the magistrate judge noted
that, as a rule, an ALJ ought to give controlling weight to
the treating physician's opinion. (R. 23, PID 521-22.)
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(c) (2),
416.927(c)(2). And the magistrate judge agreed that the
Commissioner need not give controlling weight to a physician
on an issue reserved to the Commissioner's discretion (R.
23, PID 521-22). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(d).
Because the magistrate judge-like the ALJ- believed the
treating physician's opinion went to whether Rankin could
work at the sedentary level, the magistrate judge agreed that
the ALJ properly discounted it.
that conclusion, Rankin says the magistrate judge improperly
broadened the Commissioner's discretion. (R. 26, PID 537.)
Rankin argues only that “the ALJ and MJ's opinions
are inconsistent with the uncontradicted medical evidence of
record requiring reversal.” (R. 26, PID 539.)
taking a fresh look at the record, the ALJ only discounted
the treating physician's opinion to the extent the
physician opined that Rankin could not work at the sedentary
level. (R. 11, PID 48.) When a doctor offers an opinion on a
claimant's ability to work at the sedentary level, the
ALJ is right to consider that opinion an intrusion into the
Commissioner's discretion. See SSR 96-5P, 1996
WL 374183 at *5 (July 2, 1996) (“The judgment regarding
the extent to which an individual is able to perform
exertional ranges of work goes beyond medical judgment
regarding what an individual can still do and is a finding
that may be dispositive of the issue of
disability.”)Accordingly, the ALJ need not give
controlling weight to the opinion that Rankin could not work
a sedentary job. Id.
other words, the ALJ rightly decided to discount the treating
physician's opinion because he properly considered a
portion of the opinion an encroachment on the
Commissioner's discretion. See SSR 96-2P, 1996
WL 374188 at *2. And the ALJ provided a “sufficiently
specific” explanation of his decision. See
S.S.R. 96-2p, 1996 WL 374188, at *4-5. Thus, the ...