United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER OVERRULING OBJECTIONS ,
ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION , DENYING
PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT , and
GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
("SSA") denied the application of Vicky Lynn Harris
for supplemental security income and disability insurance
benefits in a decision issued by an Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ"). After the SSA Appeals Council declined to
review the ruling, Harris appealed. ECF 1. The Court referred
the matter to Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen, and the
parties cross-motions for summary judgment. ECF 3, 13, 14.
The magistrate judge issued a Report and Recommendation
("Report") advising the Court to deny Harris's
motion and grant the Commissioner's motion. ECF 29.
Harris filed timely objections to the Report. ECF 30. After
examining the record and considering Harris's objections
de novo, the Court concludes that her arguments lack merit.
The Court will therefore overrule the objections, adopt the
Report, deny Harris's motion for summary judgment, and
grant the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment.
Report properly details the events giving rise to
Harris's action against the Commissioner. ECF 29, PgID
1070-79. The Court will adopt that portion of the Report.
Rule 72(b) governs the review of a magistrate judge's
report. A district court's standard of review depends
upon whether a party files objections. The Court need not
undertake any review of portions of a Report to which no
party has objected. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140,
149-50 (1985). De novo review is required, however, if the
parties "serve and file specific written objections to
the proposed findings and recommendations." Fed.R.Civ.P.
72(b)(2). In conducting a de novo review, "[t]he
district judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommended
disposition; receive further evidence; or return the matter
to the magistrate judge with instructions." Fed.R.Civ.P.
who receive an adverse final decision from the Commissioner
of Social Security may appeal the decision to a federal
district court. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). When reviewing a
case under § 405(g), the Court "must affirm the
Commissioner's conclusions absent a determination that
the Commissioner has failed to apply the correct legal
standards or has made findings of fact unsupported by
substantial evidence in the record." Walters v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 528 (6th
Cir.1997) (citations omitted). Substantial evidence consists
of "more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a
preponderance" such that "a reasonable mind might
accept [the evidence] as adequate to support a
conclusion." Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health &
Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994) (citation
omitted). An ALJ may consider the entire body of evidence
without directly addressing each piece in his decision.
Loral Def. Sys. - Akron v. N.L.R.B., 200 F.3d 436,
453 (6th Cir. 1999) (citation omitted). "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."
Id. (internal quotations and citation omitted)
raises two objections. The Court will address each in turn.
Harris objects to the magistrate judge's recommendation
"that the ALJ cited acceptable reasons for rejecting the
opinions of Plaintiff's long-time treating physician, Dr.
Magnatta." ECF 30, PgID 1098. Harris argues that the
Report "is incorrect that the ALJ's rejection of
[Dr.] Magnatta's opinions is well-supported, when in
fact, the medical evidence of record was consistent with Dr.
Magnatta's opinions." Id. at 1104. Harris
largely rehashes arguments she made regarding the ALJ's
opinion and takes issue with the Report because it upholds
the ALJ's opinion. See Id. at 1098- 1104.
"Objections that are merely recitations of the identical
arguments that were before the magistrate judge do not
constitute specific written objections to the proposed
findings and recommendations," and the Court is
therefore "not obligated to address" such
objections. England v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No.
15-12818, 2016 WL 5939288, at *3 (E.D. Mich. Oct. 13, 2016)
(internal quotations and citations omitted). Harris does,
however, present a few specific objections to the Report that
do not merely rehash her summary judgment argument. Her first
specific objection is that the magistrate judge's
characterization of the results of her electromyography and
electrodiagnosis study ("EMG") "as mild
isolated membrane irritabilities . . . misstates the
evidence." ECF 30, PgID 1102. Harris argues that the
magistrate judge misstates the evidence because "the
study did show 'bilateral posterior primary rami
compromise secondary to degenerative changes of the
lumbosacral spine.'" Id. (quoting ECF
11-10, PgID 660). But the magistrate judge did not misstate
the evidence. The EMG results state: "The examination
demonstrated mild muscle membrane irritabilities isolated in
the bilateral lower lumbosacral paraspinals without any
electromyographic abnormality noted in either the right or
left lower extremity." ECF 11-10, PgID 660. The attached
comments explain that "[t]he above noted
electrodiagnostic abnormality is consistent with isolated
bilateral posterior primary rami compromise secondary to
degenerative changes of the lumbar spine." Id.
It is therefore the "mild muscle membrane
irritabilities" that the magistrate judge referenced
that Dr. Tashjan, who wrote the EMG report, found consistent
with the "bilateral posterior rami compromise" that
Harris mentions. The magistrate judge accurately stated the
EMG report's findings.
second specific objection is that the magistrate judge
repeated the ALJ's mistake of failing to address the
special consideration merited by a treating physician's
opinion because "treating physicians have unique
perspectives about the medical evidence beyond the objective
clinical findings alone." ECF 30, PgID 1102- 03. But the
magistrate judge correctly stated the law-that a
well-supported opinion of a treating physician "must be
given controlling weight," but that the ALJ may reject
an opinion of a treating physician that is contradicted by
substantial evidence if he provides good reasons for
rejecting the opinion. ECF 29, PgID 1081-82 (quoting
Hensley v. Astrue, 573 F.3d 263, 266 (6th Cir.
2009); Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 378 F.3d
541, 546 (6th Cir. 2004); citing Warner v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 375 F.3d 387, 391-92 (6th Cir.
2004)). The magistrate judge then addressed the limitations
of Dr. Magnatta's opinions and the substantial
evidence-the EMG report, the clinical signs reported in
Harris's mental health records, and Dr. Magnatta's
own recommendations to Harris in the treating records. ECF
29, PgID 1083. And Harris's further challenge to two of
the pieces of evidence that the magistrate judge cited as
contradicting Dr. Magnatta's opinions is unpersuasive.
takes issue with the magistrate judge's characterization
of Dr. Adam McKenzie's findings as "wholly
unremarkable," arguing that "[t]he one-time
consultant report is the only other medical record regarding
Plaintiff's physical condition." ECF 30, PgID 1103.
But Harris admits Dr. McKenzie "did not report
abnormalities regarding the spine" and only reported
"moderate loss of her activities of daily living"
from her arthritis in her hips and left elbow. Id.
(quoting ECF 11-7, PgID 356). And Harris does not further
explain what she would have the magistrate judge do
differently regarding Dr. McKenzie's report. The
magistrate judge's conclusion that Dr. McKenzie's
report-which notes that Harris "exhibited a normal
gait" and "was able to tolerate all activities
asked of her [during the examination] without
difficulty," including "no difficulty getting on
and off the examination table and no difficulty heel and toe
walking"-"fail to support a finding of
disability" is correct. ECF 11-7, PgID 355-56; ECF 29,
also takes issue with the magistrate judge's reference to
"mental health records noting a normal gait and
unremarkable physical appearance" as one piece of
evidence contradicting "Plaintiff's claim that she
experienced severe physical restriction." ECF 29, PgID
1082-83. But even if the references are
"infrequent" or "incidental," they are
just one of several pieces of evidence contradicting Dr.
Magnatta's opinions. See ECF 30, PgID 1103. And
Harris's contention that Dr. Magnatta's failure to
report normal gait means that a report of normal gait
"does not undermine his opinions" is unpersuasive.
Id. at 1104. Dr. Magnatta indicated that Harris
could only stand or walk for two to four hours per workday,
and a report of normal gait contributes to the evidence that
his conclusion is erroneous. Harris's arguments regarding
(1) the magistrate judge's alleged failure to address the
special considerations merited by a treating physician's