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Walker v. Commission of Social Security

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

December 11, 2019




         The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("SSA") denied Plaintiff Eric Griffin Walker's application for supplemental security income and disability insurance benefits in a decision issued by an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). ECF 11-3, PgID 228-38. On appeal to the SSA Appeals Council, the Council vacated the ALJ's determination and remanded the action. Id. at 245-46. On remand, the ALJ held a second hearing and again issued a decision denying Walker's application for supplemental security income and disability insurance benefits. ECF 11-2, PgID 47-70. After the SSA Appeals Council declined to review the ruling, Walker appealed. ECF 1. The Court referred the matter to Magistrate Judge Patricia T. Morris, and the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. ECF 3, 15, 19. The magistrate judge issued a report and recommendation ("Report") suggesting that the Court deny Walker's motion and grant the Commissioner's motion. ECF 23.

         Walker timely filed objections to the Report. ECF 24. After examining the record and considering Walker's objections de novo, the Court has concluded that his arguments do not have merit. Accordingly, the Court will overrule the objections, adopt the Report's findings, deny Walker's motion for summary judgment, and grant the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment.


         The Report properly details the events giving rise to Walker's action against the Commissioner. ECF 23, PgID 1884-1932. The Court will adopt that portion of the Report.


         Civil Rule 72(b) governs the review of a magistrate judge's report. A district court's standard of review depends upon whether a party files objections. The Court need not undertake any review of portions of a 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). In conducting a de novo review, "[t]he district judge 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. 72(b)(3).

         Individuals who receive an adverse final decision from the Commissioner 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). "Nor must an ALJ 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) (alteration omitted).


         Walker raises three objections. The Court will address each in turn.

         I. Objection 1

         First, Walker argues that the magistrate judge failed to address his claim that the ALJ erred by not providing "good reasons" for discounting the opinion of Dr. Chapman-a treating physician. ECF 24, PgID 1950. But the magistrate judge did address the various reasons that the ALJ cited in affording Dr. Chapman's opinion only little weight. See ECF 23, PgID 1942-44. For example, the ALJ found that Dr. Chapman's findings had internal inconsistencies, that Dr. Chapman's later progress reports indicated that Walker was "much better" and that his systems were functioning as "normal," that Walker's physical activity level-including extensive trips to North Dakota and Europe-was inconsistent with a person with such severe ailments as Dr. Chapman opined, and that the weight of the medical evidence was contrary to Dr. Chapman's opinion. See ECF 11-2, PgID 63-66. The reasons cited by the ALJ are sufficient to discount Dr. Chapman's opinion on Walker's work-like abilities. See Hensley v. Astrue, 573 F.3d 263, 266 (6th Cir. 2009). Walker's first objection therefore lacks merit.

         To the extent that Walker is merely rehashing his argument from his motion for summary judgment that the ALJ failed to provide sufficiently specific "good reasons" for affording Dr. Chapman's opinion little weight, his objection is improper. The magistrate judge sufficiently addressed and properly rejected that argument in her Report. See Bentley v. Colvin, No. 16-11314, 2017 WL 3768941, at *2 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 31, 2017). The ALJ cited to numerous "good reasons" for discounting Dr. Chapman's opinion that Walker's condition was severe, including later ...

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