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Coleman v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

August 30, 2019

DENOLIS COLEMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          David R. Grand United States Magistrate Judge

          OPINION AND ORDER: (1) SUSTAINING DEFENDANT'S OBJECTIONS (ECF #14); (2) REJECTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE DAVID R. GRAND (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 March 4, 2019, Magistrate Judge David R. Grand 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 in part Plaintiff Denolis Coleman's December 18, 2018 Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF #10), to the extent she seeks an award of benefits, but grant Plaintiff's Motion to the extent she requests remand under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), and deny Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's January 16, 2019 Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF #11).

         Now before the Court is Defendant's Objection to the Report and Recommendation. (ECF #14, Def.'s Obj., Mar. 12, 2019.) Plaintiff filed a Response to Defendant's Objections on March 12, 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 sustain Defendant's Objection and reject 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 Defendant's Objection.

         Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) on January 28, 2015, following a stroke. (Tr. 28.) On May 12, 2017 Plaintiff appeared for and testified at a hearing before ALJ Kari Deming. (Tr. 27.) Plaintiff was represented by attorney Linda Caruso at the hearing. (Tr. 28.) On August 14, 2017, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on Plaintiffs claims. (Tr. 25.)

         The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: “late effects of cerebrovascular accident (“CVA”), hypertension, obstructive sleep apnea, and depression/anxiety related to history of CVA.” (Tr. 30.) 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. (Tr. 31.) The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”) to perform medium work with the following additional limitations: can frequently stoop, crouch, crawl, kneel, and climb ramps and stairs; can never be exposed to workplace hazards, such as ropes, ladders, scaffolds, or unprotected heights; and is limited to simple, routine tasks. (Tr. 32). At Step Four, the ALJ found that Coleman is not capable of performing any of her past relevant work. (Tr. 37).

         At Step Five, the ALJ determined, based in part on testimony provided by the vocational expert in response to hypothetical questions, that Coleman is capable of performing the jobs of packer (63, 000 jobs nationally), assembler (71, 000 jobs), and cleaner (51, 000 jobs). (Tr. 38). As a result, the ALJ concluded that Coleman is not disabled under the Act. (Tr. 39). 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., Dec. 18, 2018; ECF #11, Def.'s Mot., Jan. 16, 2019.) Plaintiff filed a Response (styled “Reply”) to Defendant's Motion. (ECF #12, Feb. 5, 2019.)

         In the Report and Recommendation on the cross motions (ECF #13), the Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court deny Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, and grant Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment to extent it requested remand under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Although Plaintiff did not raise this issue in her Motion for Summary Judgment, the Magistrate Judge found that the ALJ did not base her finding that Plaintiff was not disabled on substantial evidence because the ALJ had failed to seek certain medical records that were not included among Plaintiffs submissions. On March 12, 2019, Defendant filed an objection to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, stating, “The R&R improperly required the [ALJ] to act as ‘substitute counsel' and order additional records, even though Plaintiffs attorney assured the ALJ that the record was complete.” (ECF #14, PgID 628.) Plaintiff file her Response to the Objection on March 12, 2019. (ECF #15.)

         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 “objection” that does nothing more than disagree with a magistrate judge's determination “without explaining the source of the error” is not a valid objection. Howard v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 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)); see also Cutlip v. Sec't 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 ...


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