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Hutchison v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

September 26, 2019


          Mona K. Majzoub Magistrate Judge.



         Plaintiff Marjory Hutchison applied for social security disability benefits due to epilepsy and other conditions. An administrative law judge (ALJ), acting on behalf of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security, concluded that Hutchison was not disabled during the relevant period. Hutchison challenges this decision.

         The Court referred all pretrial proceedings to Magistrate Judge Mona K. Majzoub, who issued a Report and Recommendation to grant the Commissioner’s motion for summary judgment and to deny Hutchison’s. (ECF No. 19.) Hutchison objects. Having performed a de novo review of those portions of the magistrate judge’s report and recommendation to which Hutchison has objected, see 28 U.S.C. § 636(b); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985), the Court will adopt the recommendation of the magistrate judge for the reasons explained below.


         Hutchison was diagnosed with epilepsy in 1998. (ECF No. 8-9, PageID.1144.) She also has suffered from anxiety, anemia, and polyarthritis. (ECF No. 8-9, PageID.1142.) Although her last grand mal seizure was in 1999, she had numerous partial seizure episodes between then and September 30, 2012, the date on which she was last insured. (ECF No. 8-9, PageID.1147.) During that time, she continued to take one or more prescribed anti-seizure medications. (ECF No. 8-9, PageID.1145–1147.) Hutchison worked part-time as a school recess monitor for one hour per weekday. (ECF No. 8-9, PageID.1148.) She sought Social Security disability benefits for the period from January 1, 2011, through September 30, 2012. (ECF No. 8-9, PageID.1140.) On July 29, 2015, a judge of this District granted the parties’ stipulation to remand under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (ECF 8-10, PageID.1268–1270.)

         After reviewing numerous physician records as well as a state agency medical consultation and Hutchison’s testimony, the ALJ on remand determined that Hutchison did not meet sections 11.02 (convulsive epilepsy) or 11.03 (nonconvulsive epilepsy) of the Social Security Listing of Impairments. (ECF No. 8-9, PageID.1143-1150; ECF No. 19, PageID.1640.) Listing 11.02 requires, for instance, a frequency of at least one convulsive seizure per month, and the ALJ noted that Hutchison had not experienced a grand mal seizure since 1999. (ECF No. 19, PageID.1640; ECF No. 8-9, PageID.1142.) Nor did the ALJ find that Hutchison met the standard for Listing 11.03, which includes “alteration of awareness or loss of consciousness . . . or significant interference with activity during the day.” (ECF No. 8-9, PageID.1142; ECF No. 19, PageID.1640.) Rather, “[i]n activities of daily living, the claimant had no restriction.” (ECF No. 8-9, PageID.1143.) The ALJ further found Hutchison’s description of her seizures to be “inconsistent” with the evidence; for example, while she said her seizures lasted a few minutes, EEG studies showed that her seizures lasted eighteen seconds or less. (ECF No. 8-9, PageID.1149.)


         “This 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.” Warner v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 375 F.3d 387, 390 (6th Cir. 2004) (citation omitted). “The substantial evidence standard is met if a reasonable mind might accept the relevant evidence as adequate to support a conclusion.” Longworth v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 402 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir. 2005) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Supporting a conclusion means there is more than a “scintilla” of evidence but it need not amount to a preponderance. See Rogers v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007).


         In response to the magistrate judge’s report and recommendation, Hutchison raises two objections. Neither one persuades.


         Starting with the second objection, Hutchison asserts that the ALJ acted improperly by not giving controlling weight to the opinion of her treating physician, Dr. Devprakash Samuel. (ECF No. 20, PageID.1661.)

         “A treating source’s medical opinion must be accorded controlling weight if it is ‘well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent with the other substantial evidence in the case record.’” Kepke v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 636 F. App’x 625, 628 (6th Cir. 2016) (quoting Hensley v. Astrue, 573 F.3d 263, 266 (6th Cir. 2009)). An ALJ who declines to give controlling weight to the opinion must give “good reasons” and consider factors like “the length of the treatment relationship and the frequency of examination, the nature and extent of the treatment relationship, supportability of the ...

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