Sims v. Social Security, Commissioner of
ORDER Adopting Report and Recommendation for 19 Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Social Security, Commissioner of, 20 Report and Recommendation, 16 Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Kim Marie Sims Signed by District Judge Avern Cohn. (MVer)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
KIM MARIE SIMS,
Case No. 16-11789
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
HON. AVERN COHN
DECISION AFFIRMING DENIAL OF BENEFITS
This is a Social Security case. Plaintiff Kim Sims (Sims) appeals a decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) denying her application for
disability insurance benefits. Sims asserts physical impairments of multiple sclerosis
(MS) and degenerative disc disease with radicular symptoms.
Sims is suing under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking reversal of the Commissioner’s
decision. Sims filed a motion for summary judgment, (Doc. 16). The Commissioner
filed a cross motion for summary judgment, (Doc. 19). The motions were referred to a
magistrate judge who reported and recommended, (Doc. 20), that the Court deny
Sims’s motion, grant the Commissioner’s motion, and affirm the denial of benefits. Sims
objected, (Doc. 21), and the Commissioner responded, (Doc. 22).
The Court has considered the report and recommendation (R&R) and Sims’s
objections, and conducted a de novo review of the record regarding the objections. The
Court agrees with the magistrate judge’s conclusions and reasoning.
Sims’s objections to the R&R, (Doc. 21), are OVERRULED, the R&R, (Doc. 20),
is ADOPTED, Sims’s motion for summary judgment, (Doc. 16), is DENIED, the
Commissioner’s motion for summary judgment, (Doc. 19), is GRANTED, and the
agency’s denial of benefits is AFFIRMED.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Sims does not object to the R&R’s recitation of the facts and procedural history.
(Docs. 20, 21). The Court incorporates the report as its findings and conclusions.
(See Doc. 20).
Sims seeks review of the agency’s determination of her residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform sedentary work with restrictions. Sims challenges the
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)’s decision not to accord significant weight to the opinion
of Dr. Martin Belkin, her treating neurologist of 10 years, as to her functional limitations.
Sims says the ALJ (1) wrongly inferred from Dr. Belkin’s treatment notes that her
symptoms of fatigue and pain were minor because they were managed by medication
“as needed,” (2) incorrectly construed Dr. Belkin’s notations that her MS was clinically
“stable” to mean it was not debilitating, and (3) failed to consider factors supporting
Dr. Belkin’s functional assessment such as length of treatment and his specialization.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
The Court must review de novo parts of an R&R to which a party objects.
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The Court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the
findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” Id.
Commissioner’s Disability Determination
The Court reviews the agency’s decision only to determine if “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). In doing so, the Court does not resolve conflicts in the evidence or
questions of credibility. Id. Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Id.
In objecting to the R&R, Sims reiterates that the ALJ improperly failed to credit
Dr. Belkin’s opinion regarding her functional limitations. As reasons, Sims says the ALJ
(1) incorrectly stated the treatment notes of her primary care physician, Dr. Seymour
Weiner, did not document symptoms of extreme fatigue, and (2) minimized her
complaints on which the assessment was based because they were unconfirmed by
diagnostic tests (electromyogram, brain and spinal imaging, and physical examination).
Dr. Belkin’s functional assessment (which deemed Sims able to sit or stand for
7 hours in an 8-hour workday) cited “longstanding” subjective complaints of Sims about
“extreme” fatigue and lower back and left leg pain. (AR at 250-51). Complaints of
sustained, extreme fatigue were not in treatment notes of Dr. Weiner, only back and leg
pain and, once, weakness and dizziness as part of a respiratory infection. (Exh. 5F).
Dr. Belkin’s treatment notes reflect that Sims’s MS was clinically stable—neither
improved nor worsened—and treated conservatively with medication. Sims’s symptoms
of fatigue and pain were treated with medication “as needed.” Dr. Belkin’s treatment
notes reveal Sims had full muscle strength, steady gait, and normal brain imaging.
While Sims complained of left leg and lower back pain, there was “no
electrodiagnostic evidence” of a neuromuscular defect. (AR at 209). There was “mild”
degeneration in the discs of her lumbar spine that was unrelated to MS. (Id. at 224-25).
The evidence on which the ALJ relied to discredit the functional assessment of
Dr. Belkin was substantial, and the ALJ’s reasons for doing so met the requirements of
the regulation. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(c)(2)-(5), 416.927(c)(2)-(5) (“We will always
give good reasons in our . . . decision for the weight we give your treating source’s
medical opinion.”); (Doc. 20 at 11-12); (AR at 19-20). Dr. Belkin’s opinion was not
consistent with treatment notes or clinical and diagnostic testing, and contradicted by
the statements and activities of Sims.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: June 22, 2017
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?