United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ORDER OVERRULING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS [#16],
ACCEPTING AND ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [#15]
DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [#13] AND
GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Gershwin A. Drain United States District Court Judge.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's appeal of the
social security commissioner's decision to deny her
social security disability benefits. Plaintiff filed an
application for social security disability benefits on
November 26, 2014. [ECF No. 13, pg. 3]. The administrative
law judge (ALJ) denied her application on April 26, 2017.
Id. at pg. 4. At Plaintiff's hearing, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to
perform sedentary work. Id. Though Plaintiff would
require a “sit/stand option, ” she would be able
to perform “work involving simple, routine, and
repetitive unskilled tasks performed at Specific Vocational
Preparation (SVP) levels 1 or 2.” [ECF No. 13, pg. 5].
When presented with a hypothetical, the Vocational Expert
(VE) “testified that a person with Plaintiff's RFC
could perform the requirements of jobs that exist in numbers
in the national economy, including printed circuit checker,
rotor assembler, and surveillance systems monitor.”
[ECF No. 15, pg. 3]. While Plaintiff is unable to perform
past relevant work, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could
perform a number of jobs in the economy and denied her
benefits. As a result, Plaintiff filed a request for review
which was also denied on February 6, 2018.
filed the instant action on April 3, 2018. Plaintiff filed a
Motion for Summary Judgment on September 24, 2018. Defendant
subsequently filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on October
24, 2018. Upon review, Magistrate Judge Mona K. Majzoub has
recommended that the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary
Judgment be denied, Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment be granted, and that the case be dismissed in its
entirety in her Report and Recommendation filed on June 4,
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court employs “a de novo determination of those
portions of the report or specified proposed findings or
recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 636 (b)(1)(C). This Court “may accept, reject or
modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations
made by the magistrate judge.” Id. However,
when objections are “merely perfunctory
responses… rehashing…the same arguments set
forth in the original petition, reviewing courts should
review [a Report and Recommendation] for clear error.”
Ramirez v. United States, 898 F.Supp.2d 659, 663
(S.D.N.Y. 2012). In addition, “general objection[s] to
the entirety of the magistrate's report has the same
effects as would a failure to object.” Howard v.
Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509
(6th Cir. 1991).
makes one objection to Magistrate Judge Majzoub's Report
and Recommendation. Plaintiff's sole objection asserts
that “the Magistrate Judge improperly excused the
ALJ's failure to properly apply the treating physician
rule.” [ECF No. 16, pg. 2]. When properly applied, the
opinion of a treating physician on the issues of the nature
and severity of the patient's impairments is given
controlling weight if the opinion is “well supported by
medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic
techniques and is not inconsistent with the other substantial
evidence in the case record.” C.F.R.
§404.1527(c)(2). If the ALJ declines to give a treating
source's opinion controlling weight, she must balance the
following factors to determine the appropriate weight to give
the treating source's opinion: the length of the
treatment relationship and the frequency of examination,
nature and extent of the treatment relationship,
supportability, consistency, specialization, and other
factors brought to the attention of the reviewing authority
in determining the amount of weight that the opinion should
have. The ALJ is required to provide “good
reasons” supporting the amount of weight given to the
treating physician's opinion. Id.
argues that the relief she experienced from the bilateral
sacroiliac injections as cited by the ALJ and accepted by
Magistrate Judge Majzoub was temporary and further contends
that Dr. Rommel Aquino noted that she failed the injections.
She argues that her temporary relief does not amount to a
good reason for discounting Dr. Aquino's opinion.
Plaintiff's argument is inconsistent with evidence in the
record. Not only was Plaintiff able to take her children to
an amusement park after receiving the injections, but it was
her decision to forgo the injections in favor of exercises
that would strengthen her back. The success, or lack thereof,
of the injections was not an objective assessment. Rather, it
rested on the subjective report of the Plaintiff.
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment notes that
Plaintiff's true reason for not receiving the third
injection was because “at the time she did not have
insurance.” [ECF No. 14, pg. 14]. The success of the
injections is misconstrued with Plaintiff's ability to
afford her treatment and further inconsistent with other
evidence in the record.
further asserts that Magistrate Judge Majzoub “failed
to deal with the ALJ's disregard of objective results
that supported Dr. Aquino's findings.” [ECF No. 16
pg. 4]. Plaintiff had an MRI in 2006 which resulted in a
diagnosis of nerve root encroachment and a more recent MRI
that had a showing of degenerative disc disease, according to
Dr. Aquino. Plaintiff claims that these objective tests were
overlooked because they were not included in the record.
However, it is more likely that the ALJ disregarded the
testing because their results had little bearing on the
outcome of the matter. In Hill v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., the Court determined that “disability is
determined by the functional limitations imposed by a
condition, not the mere diagnosis of it.” 560 Fed.Appx.
547, 551 (6th Cir. Mar. 27, 2014). Dr. Aquino did not limit
Plaintiff's ability to work until eight years later in
2014. This shows that the results of those MRI's had
little or no impact on Plaintiff's functionality and
should not be given much or any weight in determining her
current social security disability eligibility. Therefore,
Magistrate Judge Majzoub correctly spent little time
discussing Dr. Aquino's findings from the MRI's.
Plaintiff contends that Magistrate Judge Majzoub
“somewhat sidestepped” Plaintiff's challenge
to the ALJ's observation that Dr. Aquino did not send her
for further pain management, neurosurgical consultation, or
rheumatology consultation. [ECF No. 16, pg. 5]. Plaintiff
asserts that “pain management had been a failure, which
further explained the lack of a further referral in that
regard.” Id. However, Plaintiff noted a
“significant reduction in pain following
injections” and after her December 2014 visit to Dr.
Aquino, she did not return until a year later, when
“Dr. Aquino recommended a conservative course of
treatment, including physical therapy and medication.”
[ECF No. 15, pg. 8]. This course of action and gap in visits
speaks to the severity of Plaintiff's condition. The
record supports the conclusion that Plaintiff was not
referred for further analysis because her pain was managed by
the treatment that she had been receiving. When Dr. Aquino
referred Plaintiff to Dr. Tahil Jamil in March of 2014, the
doctor observed that Plaintiff may have “exaggerated
pain behaviors” that were inconsistent with the exam
findings. [ECF No. 15, pg. 8]. It is clear that similar
behavior persists and Plaintiff has been inconsistently
reporting the severity of her condition.
Magistrate Judge Majzoub correctly found that the ALJ
provided good reasons for declining to adopt Dr. Aquino's
proposed limitations, due to Plaintiff's relatively
conservative treatment, improvement with steroid injections,
and a gap in treatment for more than a year.
review of the parties' briefing, the record, and the
Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, the Court
concludes that Magistrate Judge Majzoub correctly found the
ALJ provided good reasons for rejecting Dr. Aquino's
opinions. Therefore, Plaintiff's objection [ECF No. 16]
is OVERRULED. The Court ACCEPTS AND ADOPTS Magistrate Judge
Mona K. Majzoub's June 4, 2019 Report and Recommendation
[#15]. Plaintiff's Motion ...