Ciera Daniel v. Commissioner of Social Securit
Per Curiam OPINION filed: AFFIRMED, decision not for publication. R. Guy Cole , Jr., Circuit Judge; David W. McKeague, Circuit Judge and Jack Zouhary, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Ohio, sitting by designation.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION
File Name: 13a0519n.06
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
May 23, 2013
DEBORAH S. HUNT, Clerk
ON APPEAL FROM THE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT
COURT FOR THE EASTERN
DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
COLE and MCKEAGUE, Circuit Judges; ZOUHARY, District Judge.*
PER CURIAM. Plaintiff-Appellant Ciera Daniel appeals the district court’s affirmance of
the Social Security Commissioner’s denial of her application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). Daniel contends that the Administrative Law
Judge’s (“ALJ”) finding that she was not disabled was unsupported by law or substantial evidence.
Daniel applied for DIB and SSI on April 24, 2008, alleging disability due to bipolar disorder
and claiming an onset date of August 26, 2003. The ALJ denied her claims. After the denial, Daniel
requested an administrative hearing, which was held via video-conference. The ALJ denied her
claims again on March 18, 2010, after the hearing. The Appeals Council declined to review the
decision, whereupon Daniel appealed to the district court. The magistrate judge recommended
The Honorable Jack Zouhary, United States District Judge for the Northern District of Ohio,
sitting by designation.
Ciera Daniel v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec.
affirming the ALJ. The district court rejected Daniel’s objections to the report and recommendation,
adopted it, and affirmed the denial of benefits. Daniel appeals to this court.
We review the district court decision de novo, which means that—like the district court—
we review the Commissioner’s decision to verify that the factual findings were supported by
substantial evidence and that the correct legal standards were applied. See Walters v. Comm’r of Soc.
Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997) (citations omitted). When a finding is supported by
substantial evidence, we must defer to it, even if substantial evidence also supports an opposite
conclusion. See Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted).
Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Id. (quotation omitted).
Daniel contends that four specific findings of the ALJ were not supported by substantial
evidence: (1) that Daniel fails to “meet or equal” a 12.04 or 12.08 listing; (2) that the testimony of
Daniel’s treating physician lacked credibility; (3) that Daniel’s medication does not cause side effects
so debilitating that she cannot engage in substantial gainful activity; and (4) that jobs that Daniel can
perform despite her impairments exist in significant numbers in the national economy. These four
issues were comprehensively addressed by both the magistrate judge—in the report and
recommendation adopted in full by the district court—and by the district court itself after Daniel
raised them as objections to the report and recommendation. Having reviewed the appellate briefs
and the record, we agree with the district court’s thorough, soundly reasoned opinion and add only
two points of clarification, neither of which changes the outcome of this case.
Ciera Daniel v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec.
First, we disagree with Daniel’s contention that the ALJ “appeared to pick and choose” from
the statements of psychiatrist Dr. Sung-Ran Cho—who conducted a consultative psychiatric
examination in July 2008—in concluding that Daniel suffers only a moderate limitation in social
functioning. See Cole v. Astrue, 661 F.3d 931, 940 (6th Cir. 2011) (holding that a conclusion is not
supported by substantial evidence where the ALJ “leaves [the] Court without a clear understanding”
of why one part of a doctor’s testimony was credited while another part was discredited). The ALJ
explained that he found the evidence gathered by Dr. Cho to be in tension with the GAF (global
assessment of functioning) score, and therefore “turn[ed] to the longitudinal treatment record for a
more accurate picture.” This is a reasonable explanation for the ALJ’s decision to weigh Dr. Cho’s
conclusion less heavily than the “detailed narrative summary” of his clinical findings.
Second, Daniel contends that the ALJ engaged in “unsupported theorizing” in raising the
possibility that the treating physician’s opinion was unduly influenced by sympathy for Daniel. See
Whitson v. Finch, 437 F.2d 728, 732 (6th Cir. 1971) (refusing to selectively view the treating
physician's report skeptically due to the possibility of sympathy, noting that “ a similar skepticism”
equally applies to the opinion of a government physician). However, even with possible sympathy
removed from the analysis, there is other substantial evidence to support the ALJ’s decision on the
treating physician’s credibility.
Accordingly, we affirm.
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