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Shahin v. Saul

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

January 3, 2020

JUDY SHAHIN, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Patricia T. Morris United States Magistrate Judge

          OPINION AND ORDER: (1) OVERRULING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS (ECF NO. 22); (2) ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE PATRICIA T. MORRIS (ECF NO. 21); (3) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 16); (4) GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 20); and (5) AFFIRMING THE FINDINGS OF THE COMMISSIONER

          PAUL D. BORMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On September 23, 2019, Magistrate Judge Patricia T. Morris issued a Report and Recommendation (R&R) addressing the cross-motions for summary judgment in this action. (ECF No. 21, R&R.) In the R&R, Magistrate Judge Morris recommended that the Court deny Plaintiff's March 8, 2019 Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16), grant Defendant's May 23, 2019 Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 20), and affirm the findings of the Commissioner.

         Now before the Court are Plaintiff's Objections to the R&R. (ECF No. 22, Objections.) Defendant, after receiving an extension, filed a timely Response. (ECF No. 26, Response.) Having conducted a de novo review of the parts of the Magistrate Judge's R&R to which objections have been filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the Court rejects Plaintiffs Objections, adopts the Magistrate Judge's R&R, and affirms the findings of the Commissioner.

         I. Background

         The Court has reviewed the Magistrate Judge's extensive summary of the background of this case in light of the record and finds that it is accurate. (ECF No. 21, R&R, PgID 682-83, 686-707.) In addition, plaintiff has not specifically objected to the background section of the R&R. Therefore, the Court adopts the background section in full. (Id.)

         II. Standard of review

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the Court conducts a de novo review of the portions of the Magistrate Judge's R&R to which a party has filed “specific written objections” in a timely manner. Lyons v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 351 F.Supp.2d 659, 661 (E.D. Mich. 2004). A district court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” Id. 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 omitted). A general objection, or one that merely restates arguments previously presented, does not sufficiently identify alleged errors on the part of the magistrate judge. An “objection” that does nothing more than disagree with a magistrate judge's determination “without explaining the source of the error” is not a valid objection. Howard v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991).

         The Court's review of the findings of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is limited to determining whether those findings are supported by substantial evidence and made pursuant to proper legal standards. See Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 405(h)); see also Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Kyle v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 609 F.3d 847, 854 (6th Cir. 2010). It is “more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance.” McGlothin v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 299 Fed.Appx. 516, 522 (6th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). “If the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, [the court] must defer to that decision, ‘even if there is substantial evidence in the record that would have supported an opposite conclusion.' ” Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Longworth v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 402 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir. 2005)).

         As to whether proper legal criteria were followed, a decision of the Social Security Administration (SSA) supported by substantial evidence will not be upheld “where the SSA fails to follow its own regulations and where that error prejudices a claimant on the merits or deprives the claimant of a substantial right.” Bowen v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 478 F.3d 742, 746 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 378 F.3d 541, 546-47 (6th Cir. 2004)). SSA regulations establish a “five-step sequential evaluation process” for making a disability determination. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4).

(i) At the first step, we consider your work activity, if any. If you are doing substantial gainful activity, we will find that you are not disabled. (See paragraph (b) of this section.)
(ii) At the second step, we consider the medical severity of your impairment(s). If you do not have a severe medically determinable physical or mental impairment that meets the duration requirement in § 416.909, or a combination of impairments that is severe and meets the duration requirement, we will find that you are not disabled. (See paragraph (c) of this section.)
(iii) At the third step, we also consider the medical severity of your impairment(s). If you have an impairment(s) that meets or equals one of our listings in appendix 1 to subpart P of part 404 of this chapter and meets the duration requirement, we will find that you are disabled. (See paragraph (d) of this section.)
(iv) At the fourth step, we consider our assessment of your residual functional capacity and your past relevant work. If you can still do your past relevant work, we will find that you are not disabled. See paragraphs ...

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