Thornton v. Colvin
ORDER Adopting Report and Recommendation for 19 Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Carolyn W Colvin, 22 Report and Recommendation, 18 Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Mary E Thornton Signed by District Judge Marianne O. Battani. (KDoa)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
MARY E. THORNTON,
CASE NO. 2:16-cv-11717-MOB
HON. MARIANNE O. BATTANI
OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE’S
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Before the Court is Plaintiff Mary Thornton’s objections (Doc. 23) to the
Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) (Doc. 22). Thornton filed an
action seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Defendant Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Each side
filed a motion for summary judgment (Doc. 18, Doc. 19).
The matter was referred to Magistrate Judge David R. Grand, who found that
substantial evidence supported the Administrative Law Judge’s (“ALJ”) and the
Commissioner’s decision to deny benefits. (Doc. 22). For the reasons stated below,
the Court ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge’s R&R; GRANTS Defendant’s motion for
summary judgment and DENIES Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment.
Thornton filed the present action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), challenging the
final decision of the Commissioner denying her applications for Disability Insurance
Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under the Social Security
Act (the “Act”). Thornton asserts that the Commissioner’s decision is not based upon
substantial evidence. (Doc. 1).
The matter was referred to Magistrate Judge Grand for determination of all nondispositive motions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and issuance of a Report and
Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and (C).
Each side filed a
motion for summary judgment (Doc. 18, Doc. 19). Magistrate Judge Grand found that
the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards and made findings of fact that
were supported by substantial evidence in the record, and recommended that the
Commissioner’s Motion for Summary Judgment be granted, Thornton’s Motion for
Summary Judgment be denied, and that, pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), the ALJ’s decision be affirmed. (Doc. 22).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
A district court must conduct a de novo review of the parts of a Magistrate
Judge’s R&R to which a party objects. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The district court “may
accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by
the magistrate.” Id. The requirement of de novo review “is a statutory recognition that
Article III of the United States Constitution mandates that the judicial power of the
United States be vested in judges with life tenure.” United States v. Shami, 754 F.2d
670, 672 (6th Cir.1985). Accordingly, Congress enacted 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) to
“insure[ ] that the district judge would be the final arbiter” of a matter referred to a
magistrate judge. Flournoy v. Marshall, 842 F.2d 875, 878 (6th Cir.1987).
The Court must affirm the Commissioner’s conclusions so long as the
Commissioner applied the correct legal standards and made findings of fact that are
supported by substantial evidence in the record. Walters v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 127
F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997). Substantial evidence is evidence that a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate evidence in support a conclusion. Id.
This means that
are not subject to reversal merely because substantial evidence exists in
the record to support a different conclusion. The substantial evidence
standard presupposes that there is a ‘zone of choice’ within which the
[Commissioner] may proceed without interference from the courts. If the
[administrative] decision is supported by substantial evidence, a reviewing
court must affirm.
Felisky v. Bowen, 35 F.3d 1027, 1035 (6th Cir. 1994) (citations omitted). The Sixth
Commissioner's decision must be affirmed, even if the reviewing court would decide the
case differently and even if the claimant’s position is also supported by substantial
evidence. Linscomb v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 25 Fed.Appx. 264, 266 (6th Cir. 2001)
Thornton raises two objections to the R&R. First, Thornton contends that the
Magistrate Judge erred in concluding that the ALJ properly found that Thornton’s
testimony was not fully credible because Thornton failed to comply with prescribed
treatment. Second, Thornton asserts that the Magistrate Judge erred in approving the
ALJ’s consideration of “other factors” in the ALJ’s credibility determination.
With respect to the first objection, Thornton contends that, in concluding that
Thornton’s credibility was diminished by her failure to follow prescribed medical
treatment, the ALJ erred by failing to consider medical records suggesting that “the
reason[s] for noncompliance indicate a connection to Thornton’s mental impairments.”
(Doc. 23, p. 2). The Magistrate Judge acknowledged that certain records indicated that
Thornton “did not take her medications because she either thought they would lower her
blood pressure too much, the pharmacist allegedly told her not to take them, or she did
not realize she was supposed to be taking a certain medication along with others,” but
also noted that many of the records indicated that Thornton “was failing to comply with
her treatment regimen . . . as a result of something other than her mental impairment.”
(Doc. 22, p. 14).
The use of “something other” in this context is clearly meant to
connote that the records offer no explanation as to why Thornton failed to comply. The
Magistrate Judge went on to conclude that “there is simply no indication from the record
that [Thornton] was mentally unable to understand her treatment,” and emphasized the
ALJ’s observation that “[a] psychiatric specialty examination showed that she had fair to
good insight and judgment, and intact memory and attention/concentration (Tr. 516).
She was generally able to measure her blood pressure at home without problem as long
as the machine was working, she evidenced an understanding of a change in her
medications, and she was able to perform activities such as driving and managing her
(Doc. 22, p. 14).
Based on the above, the ALJ’s determination was
supported by substantial evidence.
With respect the second objection, Thornton asserts that the ALJ erred (i) by
failing to consider medical records regarding medication side effects, (ii) by failing to
consider certain limitations in Thornton’s daily activities, and (iii) by failing to consider
Thornton’s “extremely solid work history.” Each of these assertions relies on the faulty
assumption that failure to expressly mention certain evidence demonstrates a failure to
consider such evidence.
While the ALJ may have emphasized the evidence that
detracted from Thornton’s credibility, there is nothing to suggest that the ALJ failed to
consider other evidence. It would be inefficient to require the ALJ to cite every piece of
evidence offered by the parties. The ALJ’s determinations “are not subject to reversal
merely because substantial evidence exists in the record to support a different
conclusion.” Felisky v. Bowen, 35 F.3d 1027, 1035 (6th Cir. 1994).
For the reasons discussed above, the Court finds that substantial evidence
supports the Commissioner’s decision to deny benefits.
Thus, Plaintiff’s Motion for
Summary Judgment (Doc. 18) is DENIED, Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. 19) is GRANTED, and the ALJ’s decision is AFFIRMED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
/s/ Marianne O. Battani___________
MARIANNE O. BATTANI
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
The undersigned certifies that the foregoing Order was served upon counsel of record via the Court's ECF System to their
respective email addresses or First Class U.S. mail to the non-ECF participants on September 28, 2017.
s/ Kay Doaks
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