United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ORDER ADOPTING R & R
L. MALONEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter was referred to the Honorable Ellen Carmody, United
States Magistrate Judge, whom issued a Report and
Recommendation (“R & R”) on November 27,
2018. (ECF No. 13.) The R & R recommends affirming the
Commissioner's decision denying Plaintiff's claim for
Disability Income Benefits and Supplemental Security Income
because substantial evidence supported the ALJ's
conclusion that there were approximately 70, 000 jobs in the
national economy which an individual with Plaintiff's
residual functional capacity could perform. The matter is now
before the Court on Plaintiff's objections to the R &
R. (ECF No. 14.)
is entitled to de novo review on the portions of the R &
R for which he has articulated clear and specific objections.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). But “[O]bjections to magistrate
judges' reports and recommendations are not meant to be
simply a vehicle to rehash arguments set forth in the
petition.” Owens v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
2013 WL 1304470, at *3 (W.D. Mich. Mar. 28, 2013) (quoting
Nickelson v. Warden, 2012 WL 700827, at *4 (S.D.
Ohio Mar. 1, 2012)). The Court is not obligated to address
objections that do not identify specific errors in
the magistrate judge's recommendations. Id.
Here, Plaintiff raises two objections.
the magistrate judge concluded that the ALJ's decision to
afford “little weight” to the opinions of
Plaintiff's treating physicians was supported by
substantial evidence. (PageID.675-77.) In his objections,
Plaintiff asserts that the magistrate judge's conclusion
was in error because the ALJ did not refer to any medical
authority when discounting the treating physicians'
Court disagrees; the ALJ's rationale for giving little
weight to the treating physicians was supported by
substantial evidence. First, the opinions of the treating
physicians-Drs. Stansby and Gendich-were not even consistent
with each other. Dr. Stansby opined that Plaintiff's
limitations were somewhat consistent with a limited range of
light work. Dr. Gendich opined that Plaintiff was incapable
of any sustained activity. Moreover, the contemporaneous
treatment notes of the treating physicians were not
consistent with or supportive of the limitations the doctors
reported, as the magistrate noted. And finally,
Plaintiff's own statements were inconsistent with the
treating physicians' opinions. In sum, substantial
evidence supported the ALJ's decision to discount the
treating physicians' opinions as deserving “little
weight.” See, e.g., Poe v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 342 Fed.Appx. 149, 157 (6th Cir. 2009)
(“[A]n ALJ does not improperly assume the role of a
medical expert by assessing the medical and non-medical
evidence before rendering [an RFC] finding.”).
Accordingly, this objection will be
next objects that the ALJ improperly discounted his testimony
regarding his subjective symptoms. The ALJ found
Plaintiff's subjective allegations to not be fully
credible, a finding that should not be lightly disregarded.
See Varley v. Sec'y of Health and Human
Services, 820 F.2d 777, 780 (6th Cir. 1987). The ALJ
thoroughly explained his rationale for discounting
Plaintiff's subjective allegations:
In reviewing the claimant's statements, the undersigned
first reiterates that the objective medical studies and
clinical examination findings do not fully corroborate the
claimant's alleged symptoms and limitations. For example,
despite the claimant's allegations of significant joint
pain, frequent headaches, and regular episodes of vertigo,
the record reveals that he has attended relatively infrequent
medical appointments with his primary care providers to
address these conditions. Nevertheless, the claimant has also
reported that his symptoms have improved, at least somewhat,
with treatment and medication usage, as discussed above.
The evidence raises other questions about the claimant's
allegations. Specifically, the record does not suggest that
the claimant has pursued any referrals to specialists, such
as an orthopedic surgeon or a neurologist, for further
evaluation and treatment of his reported symptoms during the
period currently under consideration. Indeed, the record also
reveals significant gaps in the claimant's history of
treatment, including a period of approximately one-and-a-half
years from his alleged onset date in July 2012 through
February 2014 when the claimant only sought treatment for his
allegedly disabling impairments at an emergency department
visit and follow-up appointment with his primary care
provider in June 2013. This history of limited treatment
suggests that the claimant's impairments may not be as
limiting as he has generally alleged.
(PageID.69-70.) The magistrate judge concluded that the
ALJ's decision was consistent with the administrative
record and was supported by substantial evidence.
Plaintiff merely reincorporates his argument that the ALJ
deviated from the relevant legal standards by failing to cite
positive medical authority in concluding that Plaintiff's
testimony was not fully credible, and thus entitled to
the ALJ gave a thorough explanation of his decision to afford
Plaintiff's testimony limited weight, and that
explanation was supported by substantial evidence, as
demonstrated above. The Court rejects Plaintiff's
position that the ALJ was required to present positive
evidence that Plaintiff's condition significantly
improved from the time he began treatment in making such a
credibility determination. This theory would shift the burden
of proof to the Commissioner to disprove
Plaintiff's subjective assertions that his pain prevented
him from sustaining full-time work. As such, it is not
supported by law. See Duncan v. Secretary of Health and
Human Services, 801 F.2d 847, 852-853 (6th Cir.1986).
This objection will be OVERRULED.
on the foregoing, the Court ADOPTS the
Report and Recommendation as the Opinion of the Court,
OVERRULES Plaintiff's Objections, and
AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner.