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Woodard v. Saul

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

September 20, 2019

ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on April 5, 2018, challenging Defendant’s final decision denying his application for benefits under the Social Security Act. On the same date, the matter was referred to Magistrate Judge Anthony P. Patti for all pretrial proceedings, including a hearing and determination of all non-dispositive matters pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and/or a report and recommendation (“R&R”) on all dispositive matters pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). (ECF No. 3.) The parties subsequently filed cross-motions for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 14, 16.)

         On July 22, 2019, Magistrate Judge Patti issued an R&R in which he recommends that this Court deny Plaintiff’s motion, grant Defendant’s motion, and affirm Defendant’s decision finding Plaintiff not disabled under the Social Security Act. (ECF No. 18.) Magistrate Judge Patti finds substantial evidence in the record to support the administrative law judge’s conclusion that Plaintiff can perform a limited range of light work. Specifically, Magistrate Judge Patti concludes that the evidence does not mandate a finding that Plaintiff’s physical and/or psychological severe impairments prevent him from performing jobs for which there exist significant numbers in the national economy. In reaching this conclusion, Magistrate Judge Patti rejects Plaintiff’s arguments that the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) (1) failed to develop the record by not ordering a consultative examination to obtain an opinion regarding Plaintiff’s physical limitations; and (2) improperly subordinated the opinion of Plaintiff’s treating psychiatrist to the non-examining state agency psychological opinion.

         At the conclusion of the R&R, Magistrate Judge Patti advises the parties that they may object to and seek review of the R&R within fourteen days of service upon them. He further specifically advises the parties that “[f]ailure to file specific objections constitutes a waiver of any further right to appeal.” Plaintiff filed objections to the R&R on August 5, 2019. (ECF No. 19.) Defendant filed a response on August 19, 2019. (ECF No. 20.)

         Standard of Review

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a claimant may file a civil action seeking review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. The court may thereafter enter a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the Commissioner’s decision, with or without remanding the matter for a hearing. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The court must affirm the Commissioner’s decision if “supported by substantial evidence” and made pursuant to “proper legal standards.” Cutlip v. Sec. of Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994) (citing Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         “Substantial evidence is defined as ‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.’” Abbott v. Sullivan, 905 F.2d 918, 922-23 (6th Cir. 1990) (quoting Perales, 402 U.S. at 401). The Commissioner’s findings are not subject to reversal because substantial evidence exists in the record to support a different conclusion. Mullen v. Brown, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986) (citing Baker v. Kechler, 730 F.2d 1147, 1150 (8th Cir. 1984)). If the Commissioner’s decision is supported by substantial evidence, a reviewing court must affirm. Studaway v. Sec. of Health & Human Servs., 815 F.2d 1074, 1076 (6th Cir. 1987).

         When objections are filed to a magistrate judge’s R&R on a dispositive matter, the Court “make[s] a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The Court, however, “is not required to articulate all of the reasons it rejects a party’s objections.” Thomas v. Halter, 131 F.Supp.2d 942, 944 (E.D. Mich. 2001) (citations omitted). A party’s failure to file objections to certain conclusions of the report and recommendation waives any further right to appeal on those issues. See Smith v. Detroit Fed’n of Teachers Local 231, 829 F.2d 1370, 1373 (6th Cir. 1987). Likewise, the failure to object to certain conclusions in the magistrate judge’s report releases the Court from its duty to independently review those issues. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149 (1985).

         The ALJ’s Decision and the R&R

         An ALJ considering a disability claim is required to follow a five-step sequential process to evaluate the claim. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4). The five-step process is as follows:

1. At the first step, the ALJ considers whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i).
2. At the second step, the ALJ considers whether the claimant has a severe medically determinable physical or mental impairment that meets the duration requirement of the regulations and which significantly limits the claimant’s ability to do basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii) and (c).
3. At the third step, the ALJ again considers the medical severity of the claimant’s impairment to determine whether the impairment meets or equals an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). If the claimant’s impairment meets any Listing, he or she is determined to be disabled regardless of other factors. Id.
4. At the fourth step, the ALJ assesses the claimant’s residual functional capacity (“RFC”) and past relevant work to determine whether the claimant can perform his or her past ...

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