Reid v. Social Security, Commissioner of
ORDER Adopting Report and Recommendation for DENYING Defendant's 31 Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Social Security, Commissioner of, 34 Report and Recommendation, GRANTING Plaintiff's 30 Motion for Summary Judgment, Motion to Remand filed by Cassandra S Reid Signed by District Judge Arthur J. Tarnow. (MWil)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
CASSANDRA S. REID,
Case No. 10-13776
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT
JUDGE ARTHUR J. TARNOW
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
MAGISTRATE JUDGE MONA K.
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION  AND
GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT 
AND DENYING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
 AND REMANDING TO ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE
On July 18, 2012, Magistrate Judge Majzoub issued a Report and
Recommendation (“R&R”)  recommending that Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary
Judgment  be granted and Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment  be
denied. Defendant filed an Objection  on August 15, 2012. Plaintiff filed a
Response  to the Objection on August 29, 2012.
The R&R contains a detailed explanation of the factual background of this case,
and the Court adopts the factual background as set out in the R&R in full.
Standard of Review
This Court reviews objections to an R&R on a dispositive motion de novo. See
28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(c). Making some objections to an R&R, but failing to raise
others, will not preserve all objections a party may have to the report and
recommendation. McClanahan v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 474 F.3d 830, 837 (6th Cir.
2006). Objections that are filed must be specific. Frontier Ins. Co. v. Blaty, 454 F.3d
590, 596 (6th Cir. 2006).
In reviewing an Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ) decisions, 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) provides that the ALJ’s “factual findings are conclusive if supported by
substantial evidence.” Maziarz v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 837 F.2d 240, 243
(6th Cir. 1987). “Substantial evidence is defined as more than a scintilla of evidence
but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Rogers v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d
234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing Cutlip v. Sec’y of Health and Human Servs., 25 F.3d
284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994)) (internal quotation marks omitted); Richardson v. Perales,
402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). In order to determine “whether the Secretary's factual
findings are supported by substantial evidence, we must examine the evidence in the
record taken as a whole and must take into account whatever in the record fairly
detracts from its weight.” Wyatt v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 974 F.2d 680, 683
(6th Cir. 1992). So long as the conclusion is supported by substantial evidence, “this
Court will defer to that finding even if there is substantial evidence in the record that
would have supported an opposite conclusion.” Longworth v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec.,
402 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir. 2005); see also Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th
Defendant objects only to the portion of the R&R recommending remand due
to the ALJ’s lack of explanation regarding why Plaintiff’s severe impairment was not
medically equal to a “listed impairment.” Plaintiff does not object to the R&R.
To assess disability, an ALJ must engage in a five-step sequential evaluation.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.980 (2012). The step at issue in this case is the third step
in this sequential analysis. At Step Three, the ALJ assesses whether an impairment
found to be severe in Step Two “meets or equals one of our listings in appendix 1 to
subpart P of part 404.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the
severe impairment does meet one of the listings, then the claimant is considered
disabled and is entitled to benefits. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d).
In the R&R the Magistrate Judge noted that while the ALJ completed Step Two
and found that Plaintiff has the severe impairment of degenerative disc disease in her
lumbosacral spine with radiculopathy, the ALJ went on to conclude without any
explanation or analysis that the Plaintiff “does not have an impairment or combination
of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments . . . .” The
ALJ did not provide any explanation as to what listing or listings he compared
Plaintiff’s impairment to, and did not discuss or compare Plaintiff’s severe impairment
in the context of any of the listed impairments. As such, the ALJ essentially skipped
over Step Three.
As noted by the Magistrate Judge, the Sixth Circuit has require remand due to
an ALJ’s failure to provide any analysis as to whether a claimant’s physical
impairments meet or equal a particular listing at Step 3. Such omission is significant
because if a claimant’s impairment is found to be medically equal to a listed
impairment, they are considered disabled within the meaning of the regulations and are
entitled to benefits. See Reynolds v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 424 F. App’x 411, 415 (6th
Cir. 2011) (“Ultimately, the ALJ failed to analyze [the claimant’s] physical condition
in relation to the Listed Impairments. Put simply, he skipped an entire step of the
analysis.”). In Reynolds the court determined that “[b]ecause we have no way to
review the ALJ’s hopelessly inadequate step three ruling, we will vacate and remand
the case for a discussion of the evidence . . . .” Id. (quoting Burnett v. Comm’r of Soc.
Sec., 220 F.3d 112, 120 (3d Cir. 2000).
In the instant case, the ALJ’s analysis was less explicit than even in Reynolds.
In Reynolds the ALJ specifically noted at the beginning of his step analysis which
listings he was comparing the claimant to, sections 1.00 and 12.00, and in fact set out
a full-page assessment of the claimant’s mental impairment as related to Listing
Subsection 12.04. However, the Sixth Circuit required remand because the ALJ
provided “[n]o analysis whatsoever . . . as to whether [claimant’s] physical
impairments . . . met or equaled a Listing under section 1.00, despite his introduction
concluding that they did not.” In the instant case, as noted above, the ALJ did not
specifically state which listings he was comparing Plaintiff’s severe impairment to, and
did not provide any analysis as to why Plaintiff’s impairments were not comparable to
any listed impairment.
Defendant objects to the R&R, arguing that the ALJ’s bare conclusion was
sufficient to satisfy Step Three. Defendant does not address, or even mention, the
holding in Reynolds, 424 F. App’x 411, discussed above. Instead, Defendant argues
that Step Three requires “minimal articulation” of the ALJ’s reasoning, citing to Price
v. Heckler, 767 F.3d 281, 284 (6th Cir. 1985). Price v. Heckler concerns an ALJ’s
determination of whether a widow of a wage-earner was entitled to survivor social
security benefits based on her disability. The case does not discuss, in any way, the
five-step analysis required by 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 and 416.980. No mention of Step
Three is made, nor is the phrase “minimal articulation” used. Price is therefore
irrelevant to the instant case.
Defendant also argues that Plaintiff relies on a case from the Third Circuit,
Burnett v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 220 F.3d 112, 120 (3d Cir. 2000). While that may be
so, Defendant fails to grapple with the fact that the reasoning in Burnett was explicitly
endorsed by the Sixth Circuit in Reynolds, 424 F. App’x at 415.
Defendant’s objection has failed to demonstrate that the ALJ’s Step Three
analysis was supported by substantial evidence and is therefore denied.
The Court having reviewed the record in this case, the Report and
Recommendation  of the Magistrate Judge is hereby ADOPTED and is entered as
the findings and conclusions of the Court. Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment
 is DENIED. Plaintiff Motion for Summary Judgment  is GRANTED and this
case is remanded pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for a more thorough Step Three
analysis as consistent with this order and the R&R.
Dated: September 21, 2012
s/Arthur J. Tarnow
Arthur J. Tarnow
Senior United States District Judge
I hereby certify that a copy of this document was sent to parties of record on September 21, 2012
s/ Michael Williams
Relief Case Manager for the
Honorable Arthur J. Tarnow
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