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Drinkwine v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

September 24, 2019

JOSEPH ANTHONY DRINKWINE, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Elizabeth A. Stafford, Magistrate Judge.

          ORDER OVERRULING OBJECTIONS, ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION, GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, AND AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER

          THOMAS L. LUDINGTON, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Joseph Anthony Drinkwine, Jr. brought this action for review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying his application for disability insurance benefits. Drinkwine filed his disability application on October 8, 2016. ECF No. 10-2, Tr. 28. After a hearing, the ALJ found that Drinkwine was not disabled. ECF No. 10-2, Tr. 16-29, 36-78. The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ’s decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Id., Tr. 1-6. Drinkwine timely filed for judicial review and his complaint was referred to Magistrate Judge Stafford. ECF No. 1. Plaintiff and Defendant subsequently filed separate motions for summary judgment. Judge Stafford issued a report recommending that Defendant’s motion be granted, Plaintiff’s motion denied, and Plaintiff’s complaint dismissed. For the following reasons, Judge Stafford’s recommendation will be adopted.

         I.

         Neither party has objected to Judge Stafford’s summary of the relevant background of the case. For that reason, the summary is adopted in full. For clarity, a brief reiteration will be provided here. The ALJ denied Plaintiff’s application because it was determined that Plaintiff had the residual functioning capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work and that there was a significant number of employment opportunities that Plaintiff could perform. In reaching this conclusion, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff’s condition was more limited than determined by some of Plaintiff’s physicians. The transcript provides

The State agency psychological reviewer indicated the claimant did not have a severe psychological impairment. That opinion is accorded little weight. The evidence submitted after this opinion supports moderate limitation in all four areas of functioning. That evidence includes his suicide attempt and need for psychological treatment.
The opinion of Dr. Dickson, an examining source, which is consistent with no severe psychological impairments, is accorded little weight. The record, examinations, and evidence submitted after this opinion supports moderate limitations in all four areas of functioning.

Tr. 27 (citations omitted).

         In reviewing the ALJ’s findings, Judge Stafford concluded that the ALJ’s decision was supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ determined that Plaintiff’s RFC was more limited than determined by these two medical providers, but nevertheless did not merit receiving disability benefits. ECF No. 24 at PageID.4051. Judge Stafford cited to three cases in which the court determined that the ALJ’s decision finding that the plaintiff was not disabled was supported by substantial evidence where the ALJ determined that the RFC was more restricted than represented by the petitioner’s physicians.

         II.

         When reviewing a case under 42 U.S.C. § 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 is “such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Id. (citation omitted).

         A.

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72, a party may object to and seek review of a Magistrate Judge’s report and recommendation. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2). Objections must be stated with specificity. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 151 (1985) (citation omitted). If objections are made, “[t]he district judge must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge’s disposition that has been properly objected to.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). De novo review requires at least a review of the evidence before the Magistrate Judge; the Court may not act solely on the basis of a Magistrate Judge’s report and recommendation. See Hill v. Duriron Co., 656 F.2d 1208, 1215 (6th Cir. 1981). After reviewing the evidence, the Court is free to accept, reject, or modify the findings or recommendations of the Magistrate Judge. See Lardie v. Birkett, 221 F.Supp.2d 806, 807 (E.D. Mich. 2002).

         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 and citation omitted). A general objection, or one that merely restates the arguments previously presented, does not sufficiently identify alleged errors on the part of the magistrate judge. See VanDiver v. Martin, 304 F.Supp.2d 934, 937 (E.D.Mich.2004). An “objection” that does nothing more than disagree with a magistrate judge’s determination, “without explaining the source of the error, ” is not considered a valid objection. Howard v. Sec’y of Health and Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991). Without specific objections, “[t]he functions of the district court are ...


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