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Gilliam v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

August 28, 2019

DEBORAH A. GILLIAM, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Patricia T. Morris United States Magistrate Judge

          OPINION AND ORDER: (1) OVERRULING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS (ECF #14); (2) ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE PATRICIA T. MORRIS (ECF #13); (3) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF #10); AND (4) GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF #11)

          PAUL D. BORMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On July 10, 2019, Magistrate Judge Patricia T. Morris issued a Report and Recommendation (ECF #13) addressing the outstanding motions in this action. In the Report and Recommendation, the Magistrate Judge recommended that this Court deny Plaintiff Deborah A. Gilliam's January 15, 2019 Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF #10), grant Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's January 24, 2019 Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF #11), and affirm Defendant's final decision denying Plaintiff's claim for benefits.

         Now before the Court are Plaintiff's Objections to the Report and Recommendation. (ECF #14, Pl.'s Obj., July 24, 2019.) Defendant filed a Response to Plaintiffs Objections on August 1, 2019. (ECF #15.) Having conducted a de novo review of the parts of the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation to which objections have been filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the Court will reject Plaintiffs Objections and adopt the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation.

         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 Recommendation. There are no material inconsistencies with these accounts and the Court incorporates those factual recitations here. (ECF #13, Report and Recommendation, PgID 1600.) The following summary contains only the facts essential to the Court's evaluation of Plaintiff s objections.

         Plaintiff applied for Disabled Widow(er)'s Benefits (“DWB”) on September 24, 2014. (ECF #7-2, ALJ Decision, PgID 40.) On April 18, 2017 Plaintiff appeared for and testified at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Paul W. Jones. (Id.) On June 1, 2017, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on Plaintiffs claims. (Id. at PgID 37.)

         The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: “left ankle fracture status post ORIF; depression; anxiety; posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); osteoarthritis; and substance abuse.” (Id. at PgID 42.) Nevertheless, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Id. at PgID 43.) The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), but with the following additional limitations: “she needs a sit/stand option at will; can frequently push/pull with her left leg; occasionally climb, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; frequently balance; in simple, routine, repetitive work; with occasional public interaction.” (Id. at PgID 44-45.)

         On the basis of this determination, the ALJ posed a hypothetical to the Vocational Expert (“VE”), who testified that a person with Plaintiff's RFC, considering her additional limitations listed above, could perform a significant number of jobs in the national economy. (Id. at PgID 47.) Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since the alleged onset date. (Id.)

         Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council, which was denied on July 13, 2018. (Id. at PgID 26.) On September 7, 2018, Plaintiff commenced this action for judicial review. (ECF #1.)

         The Parties filed cross motions for summary judgment (ECF #10, Pl.'s Mot., Jan. 15, 2019; ECF #11, Def.'s Mot., Jan. 24, 2019.) Plaintiff filed a Response (styled “Reply”) to Defendant's Motion. (ECF #12, Feb. 6, 2019.)

         In the Report and Recommendation on the cross motions (ECF #13), the Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court deny Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment, and grant Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Although the Magistrate Judge comprehensively addressed the two issues raised by the Parties, Plaintiff raised two objections: (1) the Magistrate Judge did not correct the ALJ's failure to reconcile his RFC finding with the opinion of Dr. R. Scott Lazzara; and (2) the Magistrate Judge's conclusion was incorrect that the ALJ's statement regarding Plaintiffs work history was “harmless error”. (ECF #14.) Plaintiffs two objections mirror the two arguments in her Motion for Summary Judgment and in her “Reply” to Defendant's Motion.

         II. STANDARDS 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 objections” 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.” Id. 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. (internal quotation marks omitted). A general objection, or one that merely restates arguments previously presented, does not sufficiently identify alleged errors on the part of the magistrate judge. An ...


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