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Horn v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

September 23, 2019

JAMES E. HORN, Plaintiff,



         Before the Court is Plaintiff James E. Horn’s Objections to the Magistrate Judge’s Report & Recommendation (“R&R”). (ECF No. 13). Magistrate Judge Stephanie Dawkins Davis considered the parties’ cross motions for summary judgment and, on August 13, 2019, entered an R&R. (ECF No. 12). In the R&R, the Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court grant Defendant’s motion for summary judgment and deny Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff timely objected. For the reasons that follow, the Court ADOPTS the R&R, DENIES Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment, GRANTS the Commissioner’s Motion for Summary Judgment, and DENIES Plaintiff’s Objections.


         Plaintiff, James E. Horn, filed his application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) on April 18, 2016 (Administrative Transcript (“Tr.”) 11, 65, 130-31). Plaintiff alleged disability beginning September 24, 2015 (Tr. 11, 130). After his application was denied, he requested a hearing before an Adminiatrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). On November 17, 2017, the ALJ held a hearing. On January 4, 2018, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled (Tr. 8-29). On May 1, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s request for review, thus making the ALJ’s January 4, 2018 decision final (Tr. 1-5).

         Pursuant to the standard for disability, 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A), and the sequential evaluation process, 20 C.F.R. § 404.920(a)(4), the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 24, 2015; that Plaintiff had the severe impairments, including major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), panic disorder, and epilepsy; that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, and that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform medium work, as defined in the governing regulation, with specified exceptions. The ALJ limited Horn to unskilled work involving simple, routine, repetitive tasks with no production-like standards, no work with the public, only occasional interaction with coworkers and supervisors, and only occasional changes in the work setting. Because the ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable to perform his past relevant work (Tr. 25, Finding 6), he considered factors including Plaintiff’s age, education, work experience, and RFC, and determined that there were jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy that he could perform (Tr. 25, Finding 10). Based on those factors, the ALJ concluded that Horn was not entitled to benefits.

         Horn exhausted his administrative remedies and seeks judicial review. He contends that the record, as a whole, lacks evidence to support the decision that he has not been under a disability.


         A. Objections to a Magistrate Judge’s R&R

         A district court must conduct a de novo review of the portions of a magistrate judge’s report and recommendation to which a party objects. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The district “court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate” judge. Id. The requirement of de novo review “is a statutory recognition that Article III of the United States Constitution mandates that the judicial power of the United States be vested in judges with life tenure.” United States v. Shami, 754 F.2d 670, 672 (6th Cir. 1985). Accordingly, Congress enacted 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) to “insure[ ] that the district judge would be the final arbiter” of a matter referred to a magistrate. Flournoy v. Marshall, 842 F.2d 875, 878 (6th Cir. 1987).

         The Sixth Circuit has made clear that “[o]verly general objections do not satisfy the objection requirement.” Spencer v. Bouchard, 449 F.3d 721, 725 (6th Cir. 2006). Only specific objections are entitled to de novo review; vague and conclusory objections amount to a complete failure to object as they are not sufficient to pinpoint those portions of the R&R that are legitimately in contention. Mira v. Marshall, 806 F.2d 636, 637 (6th Cir.1986) (per curiam). “The objections must be clear enough to enable the district court to discern those issues that are dispositive and contentious.” Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373, 380 (6th Cir. 1995). "‘[O]bjections disput[ing] the correctness of the magistrate's recommendation but fail[ing] to specify the findings . . . believed [to be] in error’ are too general.” Spencer, 449 F.3d at 725 (quoting Miller, 50 F.3d at 380).

         B. Standard of Review Applicable to Social Security Cases

         This Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's final administrative decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Judicial review is limited to determining whether the Commissioner’s decision is supported by substantial evidence and was made pursuant to proper legal standards. Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is "more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). If the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, "it must be affirmed even if the reviewing court would decide the matter differently and even if substantial evidence also supports the opposite conclusion." Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994) (internal citations omitted).

         When reviewing the Commissioner's factual findings for substantial evidence, the Court is limited to an examination of the record and must consider that record as a whole. Wyatt v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 974 F.2d 680, 683 (6th Cir. 1992). There is no requirement, however, that either the Commissioner or this Court discuss every piece of evidence in the administrative record. Kornecky v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 167 F.App'x 496, 508 (6th Cir. 2006). Further, this Court does "not try the case de novo, resolve conflicts in evidence, or decide questions of credibility." Bass v. McMahon, 499 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 2007).

         III. ...

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