United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
DALE C. DIXON, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER OVERRULING PLAINTIFF'S
OBJECTIONS, ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION, AND GRANTING
DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
H. CLELAND UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
appeals the denial of Social Security disability benefits.
This case was referred to Magistrate Judge Elizabeth A.
Stafford for a report and recommendation. (ECF No. 3.) Both
Plaintiff and Defendant filed motions for summary judgment.
(ECF Nos. 13, 16.) The Magistrate Judge considered these
motions and issued a Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) that recommends denying
Plaintiff's motion and granting Defendant's motion,
which would affirm the finding made by the administrative law
judge (“ALJ”) that Plaintiff is not disabled.
(EFC No. 17.) Plaintiff timely filed two objections to the
R&R, and Defendant filed responses. (ECF No. 18, 19.)
After reviewing the R&R and the parties' filings, the
court concludes that a hearing is unnecessary. See
E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2). For the following reasons, and the
reasons explained in the R&R, the court will overrule
Plaintiff's objections, grant Defendant's motion for
summary judgment, and adopt the R&R in its entirety and
filing of timely objections to an R&R requires the court
to “make a de novo determination of those
portions of the report or specified findings or
recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1); see also United States v. Raddatz,
447 U.S. 667 (1980); United States v. Winters, 782
F.3d 289, 295 n.1 (6th Cir. 2015); United States v.
Walters, 638 F.2d 947 (6th Cir. 1981). This de
novo review requires the court to re-examine all the
relevant evidence previously reviewed by the magistrate judge
to determine whether the recommendation should be accepted,
rejected, or modified in whole or in part. 28 U.S.C. §
raises two objections to the R&R. First, Plaintiff
challenges the Magistrate Judge's interpretation of
Drummond v. Commissioner, 126 F.3d 837 (6th Cir.
1997), which addresses the issue of res judicata in the
context of multiple Social Security filings. Second,
Plaintiff challenges the Magistrate Judge's treatment of
the opinions of Plaintiff's treating medical provider,
Dr. Levi. The court will address each objection in turn.
Application of Res Judicata
originally filed for disability benefits in 2012, alleging
April 1, 2011, as an onset date of disability. (ECF No. 9-3,
PageID 119.) In that case, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff
was not disabled and had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform sedentary work. (Id.
at PageID.122-31.) Plaintiff then filed a second application
for benefits in 2016, alleging June 20, 2016, as the onset
date of disability. (ECF No. 9- 2, PageID 46.) In that case,
the ALJ determined that she was not disabled and had the RFC
to perform light work. (ECF No. 9-2, PageID 51.) This appeal
first objection, Plaintiff argues that the Magistrate Judge
erred in finding that the ALJ who reviewed Plaintiff's
2016 application was not bound by the RFC determination made
by the ALJ who reviewed Plaintiff's 2012 application.
This argument fails because it is based on an outdated
interpretation of Drummond v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 126 F.3d 837 (6th Cir. 1997).
Sixth Circuit held in Drummond that “[w]hen
the Commissioner has made a final decision concerning a
claimant's entitlement to benefits, the Commissioner is
bound by this determination absent changed
circumstances.” Drummond, 126 F.3d at 842.
Following this decision, the Social Security Administration
issued an Acquiescence Ruling on Drummond:
When adjudicating a subsequent disability claim with an
adjudicated period arising under the same title of the Act as
the prior claim, adjudicators must adopt such a finding from
the final decision by an ALJ or the Appeals Council on the
prior claim . . . unless there is new and material evidence
relating to such a finding or there had been a change in the
law, regulations or ruling affecting the finding or the
method for arriving at the finding.
S.S.R. 98-4(6), 1998 WL 283902 (June 1, 1998).
Early v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 893 F.3d 929 (6th
Cir. 2018), the Sixth Circuit further clarified that
“if an individual . . . files a second application for
the same period of time finally rejected by the first
application and offers no cognizable explanation for
revisiting the first decision, res judicata would bar the
second application.” Early, 893 F.3d at 933.
However, the court emphasized that claims filed during
different time periods are not the “same claim”
for purposes of being barred by res judicata. Id.
(quoting Groves v. Apfel, 148 F.3d 809, 810 (7th
Cir. 1998) (“[A] claim that one became disabled in 1990
is not the same as a claim that one became disabled in
judicata does not apply in this case. Here, Plaintiff's
2016 application for benefits relates to a different onset
date of disability than her 2012 application. Additionally,
Plaintiff's 2016 application contains new evidence,
including the normal results of a May 2016 myocardial
perfusion imaging with a stress test, an independent medical
examination conducted by Dr. Bina Shaw, and descriptions of
Plaintiff's ability to care for her infant grandson and
other grandchildren. (ECF No. 17, PageID 1016-17; ECF No.
9-2, PageID 53.) Because Plaintiff's 2016 application
pertains to a new time period of disability and contains new