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Eddins v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

June 5, 2018

DARRELL DUANE EDDINS, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          MONA K. MAJZOUB MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [14] GRANTING COMMISSIONER'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [13] AND DENYING EDDINS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [12]

          LAURIE J. MICHELSON U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         Darrell Eddins applied for Social Security Income (“SSI”) based upon his seizure disorder, shoulder injury, degenerative joint disease in his knees, neurocognitive disorder, and several other ailments. After his claim was denied, Eddins appeared at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in December 2016. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision about a month later. The Appeals Council denied his request for a review of the decision. In April 2017, Eddins filed the present action. The Court referred all pretrial proceedings to Magistrate Judge Mona Majzoub who issued a Report and Recommendation to grant the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment and to deny Eddins'. Eddins raises six objections to the Report.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court will overrule Eddins' objections and adopt the Report.

         I.

         This Court performs a de novo review of those portions of the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation to which the parties have objected. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). The Court need not and does not perform a de novo review of the report's unobjected-to findings. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985); Garrison v. Equifax Info. Servs., LLC, No. 10-13990, 2012 WL 1278044, at *8 (E.D. Mich. Apr. 16, 2012).

         “This Court must affirm the Commissioner's conclusions absent a determination that the Commissioner has failed to apply the correct legal standards or has made findings of fact unsupported by substantial evidence in the record.” Warner v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 375 F.3d 387, 390 (6th Cir. 2004) (citation omitted). “The substantial evidence standard is met if a reasonable mind might accept the relevant evidence as adequate to support a conclusion.” Longworth v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 402 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir. 2005) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Supporting a conclusion means there is more than a “scintilla” of evidence but it need not amount to a preponderance. See Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007). “Even if supported by substantial evidence, however, a decision of the Commissioner will not be upheld where the SSA fails to follow its own regulations and where that error prejudices a claimant on the merits or deprives the claimant of a substantial right.” Bowen v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 478 F.3d 742, 746 (6th Cir. 2007); see also Cole v. Astrue, 661 F.3d 931, 937 (6th Cir. 2011) (“An ALJ's failure to follow agency rules and regulations denotes a lack of substantial evidence, even where the conclusion of the ALJ may be justified based upon the record.” (citations and quotations omitted)).

         II.

         To begin, the Court notes that most of Eddins' objections refer to arguments made in his motion for summary judgment without identifying how the Magistrate Judge erred in analyzing those arguments in her Report. (See R. 15.) These are not proper objections and will not be considered by the Court. See VanDiver v. Martin, 304 F.Supp.2d 934, 937 (E.D. Mich. 2004) (finding that an objection “that merely restates the arguments previously presented is not sufficient to alert the court to alleged errors on the part of the magistrate judge.”). The Court will therefore only address those objections that actually identify an issue with the Report.

         A.

         Eddins' first objection touches on the treating-physician rule. Dr. Michael Owczarzak provided a medical source treatment opinion that Eddins could stand or walk less than two hours in an eight-hour work day, and that he could never climb, balance, kneel, crouch, crawl or stoop. (R. 9-8, PID 858-59.) The ALJ assigned little weight to this opinion because the statement was not supported by the treating records and because “the language reflects that the primary care physician simply wrote down limitations based upon the claimant's report of what he could do rather than reflecting a medical opinion based upon diagnoses and symptoms.” (R. 9-2, PID 50.) In finding that the ALJ did not err in giving Dr. Owczarzak's opinion less than controlling weight, the Magistrate Judge stated, “[Dr. Owczarzak's] opinions are inconsistent with the records of [Eddins'] treatment with Dr. Owczarzak, which often reflected that [Eddins] had ‘no difficult[y] walking or standing.'” (R. 14, PID 1456). In support, the Magistrate Judge cited two pages of the medical record which contained Dr. Owczarzak's note that Eddins had no difficulty walking or standing. (Id. (citing R. 9-7, PID 533; R. 9-8, PID 685).) Eddins believes that other information on these two pages actually supports Dr. Owczarzak's opinions. (R. 15, PID 1466.)

         The Court has reviewed the records in question and disagrees with Eddins' interpretation of them. True, the records note that Eddins has a “decreased range of motion of the lumbar spine, positive tenderness to motion, positive muscle spasms and positive crepitus in the low back” as well as “decreased range of motion in the right shoulder” and “decreased range of motion in [Eddins'] knees.” (R. 15, PID 1466.) But this is not necessarily inconsistent with Dr. Owczarzak's other observation that Eddins had “no difficulty walking or standing, ” (R. 14, PID 1456), nor does it render the medical source statement well supported by the record. The Magistrate Judge therefore did not err in citing those two pages as support for her overall conclusion that the ALJ cited good reasons for finding that the doctor's opinion should be afforded little weight.

         B.

         In his summary judgment motion, Eddins argued that the ALJ committed procedural error in not considering all of his impairments in determining his Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). (R. 12, PID 1405-08.) Eddins' second and third objections concern the Magistrate Judge's treatment of this argument. (R. 15, PID 1467.) To better ...


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