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Jaber v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

August 22, 2019

EISSA JABER, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          R. Steven Whalen United States Magistrate Judge

         OPINION AND ORDER (1) ADOPTING MAGISTRATE JUDGE WHALEN'S JUNE 28, 2019 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (ECF NO. 17), (2) OVERRULING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS (ECF NO. 18) (3) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 13), (4) GRANTING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 16), AND (5) AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER

          PAUL D. BORMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On June 28, 2019, Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen issued a Report and Recommendation (“Report”) to deny Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, grant Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, and affirm the final decision of the Commissioner to deny Plaintiff's application for Disability Insurance Benefits. (ECF No. 14, Report and Recommendation) (“Report”). On July 12, 2019, Plaintiff filed Objections to the Report and Recommendation. (ECF No. 18.) Defendant filed a Response to Plaintiff's Objections. (ECF No. 19.) Having conducted a de novo review, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), of those parts of the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation to which specific objections have been filed, the Court OVERRULES Plaintiff's Objections, ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report, GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16), DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 13), and AFFIRMS the findings of the Commissioner.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The findings of the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) and the pertinent portions of the Administrative Record are accurately and adequately cited to in the Report and the Court incorporates those factual recitations here. (Report at 2-10, PgID 1380-88) (citing ECF No. 7, Transcript of Social Security Proceedings passim (hereinafter “Tr. at ”). The record evidence will be discussed in this Opinion and Order only as necessary to the Court's resolution of Plaintiff's Objections.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the Court conducts a de novo review of the portions of the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation to which a party has filed “specific written objection” in a timely manner. Lyons v. Comm'r Soc. Sec., 351 F.Supp.2d 659, 661 (E.D. Mich. 2004). A district court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). Only those objections that are specific are entitled to a de novo review under the statute. Mira v. Marshall, 806 F.2d 636, 637 (6th Cir. 1986). “The parties have the duty to pinpoint those portions of the magistrate's report that the district court must specially consider.” Id. (quotation marks and citation omitted). “A general objection, or one that merely restates the arguments previously presented is not sufficient to alert the court to alleged errors on the part of the magistrate judge.” Aldrich v. Bock, 327 F.Supp.2d 743, 747 (E.D. Mich. 2004). “‘[B]are disagreement with the conclusions reached by the Magistrate Judge, without any effort to identify any specific errors in the Magistrate Judge's analysis that, if corrected, might warrant a different outcome, is tantamount to an outright failure to lodge objections to the R & R.'” Arroyo v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 14-cv-14358, 2016 WL 424939, at *3 (E.D. Mich. Feb. 4, 2016) (quoting Depweg v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 14-11705, 2015 WL 5014361, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 24, 2015) (citing Howard v. Secretary of Health & Human Services, 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991)).

         In reviewing the findings of the ALJ, the Court is limited to determining whether those findings are “supported by substantial evidence” and made “pursuant to proper legal standards.” See Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 405(h) and Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994)). “Substantial evidence is ‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'” Kyle v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 609 F.3d 847, 854 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Lindsley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 560 F.3d 601, 604 (6th Cir. 2009)); see also McGlothin v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 299 Fed.Appx. 516, 522 (6th Cir. 2008) (recognizing that substantial evidence is “more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance”) (internal quotation marks omitted). “If the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, [the court] must defer to that decision, ‘even if there is substantial evidence in the record that would have supported an opposite conclusion.'” Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Longworth v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 402 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir. 2005)).

         As to whether proper legal criteria were followed, a decision of the SSA supported by substantial evidence 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) (citing Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 378 F.3d 541, 546-47 (6th Cir. 2004)).

         “This Court does not try the case de novo, nor resolve conflicts in the evidence, nor decide questions of credibility.” Cutlip, 25 F.3d at 286. “It is of course for the ALJ, and not the reviewing court, to evaluate the credibility of witnesses, including that of the claimant.” Rogers, 486 F.3d at 247. See also Cruse v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 502 F.3d 532, 542 (6th Cir. 2007) (noting that the “ALJ's credibility determinations about the claimant are to be given great weight, ‘particularly since the ALJ is charged with observing the claimant's demeanor and credibility'”) (quoting Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 531 (6th Cir. 1997)).

         “Judicial review of the Secretary's findings must be based on the record as a whole.” Heston v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 245 F.3d 528, 535 (6th Cir. 2001)). Therefore, “[b]oth the court of appeals and the district court may look to any evidence in the record, regardless of whether it has been cited by the [ALJ].” Id. (citing Walker v. Sec'y of Health and Human Services, 884 F.2d 241, 245 (6th Cir. 1989)). See also Conley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 13-cv-13072, 2015 WL 404229, at *10 (E.D. Mich. Jan. 29, 2015) (“The court must examine the administrative record as a whole, and may look to any evidence in the record, regardless of whether it has been cited by the ALJ.”).

         “[A]n ALJ can consider all the evidence without directly addressing in his written decision every piece of evidence submitted by a party. Nor must an ALJ make explicit credibility findings as to each bit of conflicting testimony, so long as his factual findings as a whole show that he implicitly resolved such conflicts.” Kornecky v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 167 Fed.Appx. 496, 508 (6th Cir. 2006) (quoting Loral Defense Systems-Akron v. N.L.R.B., 200 F.3d 436, 453 (6th Cir. 1999)).

         III. ...


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