United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ORDER OVERRULING OBJECTIONS , ADOPTING REPORT AND
RECOMMENDATION , DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT , AND GRANTING THE COMMISSIONER'S
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT 
HONORABLE STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III JUDGE.
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
("SSA") denied Steven Edward Patrick Mutz's
application for supplemental security income and disability
insurance benefits in a decision issued by an administrative
law judge ("ALJ"). ECF 9-2, PgID 46-56. After the
SSA Appeals Council declined to review the ruling, Mutz
appealed. ECF 1.
Court referred the matter to Executive Magistrate Judge R.
Steven Whalen and the parties filed cross-motions for summary
judgment. ECF 3, 11, 12. The magistrate judge issued a report
and recommendation ("Report") and advised the Court
to deny Mutz's motion and grant the Commissioner's
motion. ECF 13. Mutz timely objected to the Report. ECF 14.
After examining the record and considering Mutz's
objection, the Court concludes that his arguments lack merit.
The Court will therefore overrule Mutz's objection, adopt
the Report's findings, deny Mutz's motion for summary
judgment, and grant the Commissioner's motion for summary
Report properly detailed the events giving rise to Mutz's
action against the Commissioner. ECF 13, PgID 428-36. The
Court will adopt that portion of the Report.
who receive an adverse final decision from the Commissioner
of Social Security may appeal the decision to a federal
district court. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). When reviewing a
case under § 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 consists of
"more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a
preponderance" such that "a reasonable mind might
accept [the evidence] as adequate to support a
conclusion." Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health &
Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994) (citation
omitted). An ALJ may consider the entire body of evidence
without directly addressing each piece in his decision.
Loral Def. Sys.-Akron v. N.L.R.B., 200 F.3d 436, 453
(6th Cir. 1999) (citation omitted). The ALJ is not required
to "make explicit credibility findings as to each bit of
conflicting testimony, so long as his factual findings as a
whole show that he implicitly resolved such conflicts."
Id. (internal quotations and citation omitted)
Rule 72(b) governs the review of a magistrate judge's
report. The Court's standard of review depends on whether
a party files objections. The Court need not undertake any
review of portions of the Report to which no party has
objected. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149-50
(1985). De novo review is required, however, if the parties
"serve and file specific written objections to the
proposed findings and recommendations." Fed.R.Civ.P.
72(b)(2). When conducting a de novo review, the Court
"may accept, reject, or modify the recommended
disposition; receive further evidence; or return the matter
to the magistrate judge with instructions." Fed.R.Civ.P.
objects to the magistrate judge's finding "that the
[ALJ's] residual functional capacity ("RFC")
assessment was supported by substantial evidence and did not
require a more detailed function by function analysis."
ECF 14, PgID 450. Mutz's objection rehashes arguments he
already presented in his motion for summary judgment that the
Report addressed and rejected. Compare ECF 11, PgID
389-91 with ECF 14, PgID 453-55. Mutz's
challenge was "not a proper objection to the [Report],
as required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b), because it merely rehashes
[Mutz's] arguments." See Bentley v. Colvin,
No. 16-11314, 2017 WL 3768941, at *2 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 31,
2017) (citing Davis v. Caruso, No. 07-10115, 2008 WL
540818, at *2 (E.D. Mich. Feb. 25, 2008)). The Court is
therefore not obligated to address the objection.
Markgraff v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No.
2:17-cv-10511, 2018 WL 654838 at *2 (E.D. Mich. Jan. 31.
2018) (citing Owens v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No.
1:12-CV-47, 2013 WL 1304470 (W.D. Mich. Mar. 28, 2013)).
Mutz's objection is misplaced. The ALJ and magistrate
judge properly analyzed Mutz's RFC. Mutz first contends
that the "ALJ's RFC finding represented a conclusion
rather than a description of what Plaintiff could do and what
limitations he had" and that the "ALJ should have
discussed and/or included [in her opinion] the long list of
limitations listed by the state agency medical expert, Dr.
Robert Newhouse M.D." ECF 14, PgID 451-52.
Disability Determination Explanation form that Dr. Newhouse
prepared cautions that "[t]he questions below help
determine the Individual's ability to perform sustained
work activities. However, the actual mental residual
functional capacity assessment is recorded in the
narrative discussion(s), which describe how the evidence
supports each conclusion." ECF 9-3, PgID 89-90 (emphasis
added); see also Shoup v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
No. 1:16-CV-581, 2017 WL 2240511 at *6 (W.D. Mich. Mar 23,
2017) (recognizing the same RFC assessment form disclaimer).
Mutz takes no issue with the actual RFC assessment in Dr.
Newhouse's narrative discussion. The first part
of his objection therefore fails. And his reliance on
Howard v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 276 F.3d 235 (6th
Cir.) does not advance the argument. In Howard, the
court found that the ALJ had selectively included "only
those potions of the [intake] report that cast Howard in a
capable light suggest[ed] that he only considered part of the
report in formulating his conclusion." Id. at
240. Here, the ALJ did not selectively include certain
portions of the report. Rather, the ALJ properly limited her
discussion to the portion of the form that constituted the
actual RFC assessment.
Mutz argues that the ALJ erred by not providing the
vocational expert "with an accurate description of
Plaintiff's abilities and limitations" and not
relying on the vocational expert's answers to
hypothetical questions. ECF 14, PgID 453-54. But, "[i]t
is well established that an ALJ may pose hypothetical
questions to a vocational expert and is required to
incorporate only those limitations accepted as credible by
the finder of fact." Casey v. Sec'y of Health
& Human Servs., 987 F.2d 1230, 1235 (6th Cir. 1993).
Here, the ALJ asked the vocational expert about a
hypothetical person and added certain limitations to the
hypothetical person throughout the questioning. See
ECF 9-2, PgID 77-80. But the ALJ is not bound by the
vocational expert's answers. Kessans v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 768 Fed.Appx. 531, 536 (6th Cir. 2019).
"Indeed, the ALJ may pose a question involving a
hypothetical individual with several limitations-and then
later decide that those limitations differed from the
claimant's limitations." Id. Neither must
an ALJ "identify the claimant's precise limitations
before posing hypothetical questions to the vocational
expert." Id. (citing Maziarz v. Sec'y
of Health & Human Servs., 837 F.2d 240, 247 (6th
Cir. 1987)). Because the ALJ is not required to identify all
the claimant's limitations and is not bound by answers to
hypotheticals that may have included limitations she later
found the claimant did not have, the second part of
Mutz's objection is overruled.
Mutz contends that the ALJ and magistrate judge erred when
they cited "Dr. Blenman's encouragement to Plaintiff
to consider looking for a part time job." ECF 14, PgID
455. The ALJ, however, "did not err by considering
[Mutz's] ability to maintain part-time employment as one
factor relevant to the determination of whether he was
disabled." Miller v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
524 Fed.Appx. 191, 194 (6th Cir. 2013). Both the ALJ and the
magistrate judge made it clear that Dr. Blenman's
encouragement was just one factor they considered. The ALJ
also considered factors such as Mutz's "ability to
handle his own laundry and go to the library to check out
books," ECF 9-2, PgID 54, and the magistrate judge
considered factors such as Mutz's performance in high
school and his ability to read novels, ECF 13, PgID 447.