Champion v. Social Security
ORDER granting 17 Motion for Summary Judgment; denying 21 Motion for Summary Judgment; adopting 23 Report and Recommendation. Signed by District Judge Arthur J. Tarnow. (MLan)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
LISA MARIE CHAMPION,
Case No. 16-12924
SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
ARTHUR J. TARNOW
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
ELIZABETH A. STAFFORD
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION , GRANTING
PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT , DENYING DEFENDANT’S
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT , OVERRULING DEFENDANT’S
On August 4, 2017, Magistrate Judge Stafford issued a Report and
Recommendation (R&R) , recommending that Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary
Judgment  be granted and, accordingly, that Defendant’s Motion for Summary
Judgment  be denied. Defendant filed an objection  on August 10, 2017,
and Plaintiiff filed a response  on August 22, 2017. For the reasons stated
below, the R&R  is ADOPTED and is entered as the findings and conclusions
of the Court, and Defendant’s objection  is OVERRULED. Plaintiff’s Motion
for Summary Judgment  is GRANTED and Defendant’s Motion for Summary
Judgment  is DENIED.
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STATEMENT OF FACTS
The Magistrate Judge summarized the administrative record of Plaintiff’s
disability application as follows:
Born December 29, 1967, Champion was 45 years old when she submitted
her application for disability benefits in September 2013. [ECF No. 11-2, Tr.
38; ECF No. 11-5, Tr. 143]. She received her GED and nursing assistant
training from the American Red Cross. [ECF No. 11-2, Tr. 39-40].
Champion’s past relevant work was classified as a receptionist and
sorter/gauger. [ECF No. 11-2, Tr. 60]. Champion alleges a disability onset
date of September 1, 2011. [ECF No. 11-2, Tr. 35; ECF No. 7-3, Tr. 75].
Her last insured was December 31, 2014. [ECF No. 7-2, Tr. 14].
After a hearing on May 6, 2015, during which Champion and a vocational
expert (VE) testified, the ALJ found that Champion was not disabled. [ECF
No. 11-2, Tr. 17-27, 32-81]. The Appeals Council denied review, making the
ALJ’s decision the final decision of the Commissioner. [Id., Tr. 1-3].
Champion timely filed for judicial review. [ECF No. 1].
…Applying [the five—step disability analysis] the ALJ concluded that
Champion was not disabled. At the first step, she found that Champion had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the relevant period. [ECF
No.11-2, Tr. 19]. At the second step, she found that Champion had the
severe impairments of “history of traumatic brain injury with left temporal
fracture, hearing loss on the right side, multi-level disc bulges of the lumbar
spine status post anterior lumbar interbody fusion and instrumentation
resulting in chronic pain and post laminectomy syndrome.” [Id.]. Next, the
ALJ concluded that none of her impairments, either alone or in combination,
met or medically equaled the severity of a listed impairment. [Id., Tr. 18].
Between the third and fourth steps, the ALJ found that Champion had the
RFC to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a),
[S]he could only occasionally climb stairs, crouch, crawl, kneel,
stoop or bend; should avoid workplace hazards, such as moving
machinery, unprotected heights and, as such, should not climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolding; is limited to work that is low stress
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which does not require any complex decisions but, rather, involves
only simple decisions; and, needs a job which allows for the
opportunity to alternate between sitting and standing while engaging
in the work, as desired.
[ECF No. 11-2, Tr. 22]. At step four, the ALJ found that Champion was
capable of performing her past relevant work as a reception and
sorter/gauger. [Id., Tr. 26]. This rendered a finding that Champion was not
disabled during the relevant period. [Id., Tr. 27].
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). Judicial review of a decision by an Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) is limited to determining whether the factual findings are
supported by substantial evidence and whether the ALJ employed the proper legal
standards. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). 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).
The substantial evidence standard “does not permit a selective reading of the
record,” as the reviewing court’s assessment of the evidence supporting the ALJ’s
findings “must take into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from its
weight.” Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 388 (6th Cir. 1984).
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Defendant raises only one objection to the R&R. She argues that the ALJ
reasonably rejected Dr. Peter’s work absence limitation and that the Magistrate
Judge erred by finding this rejection to be an error.
The decision to remand was based on the Magistrate Judge’s finding that:
The ALJ did not adopt Dr. Peter’s opinion, as her assessment of
Champion’s RFC is inconsistent with Dr. Peter’s in important
respects, including Champion’s ability to sit for more than two hours,
lift ten pounds, and work in even a low stress environment, and
because the ALJ imposed no limitation on her ability to move her
neck and head. And while the Commissioner appears to be arguing
that the ALJ indirectly attacked portions of Dr. Peter’s opinion, she
did not make that case; the Commissioner simply referred to two
pages of the ALJ’s decision and asserted that good reasons were
[23 at 16-17]. Further, the Magistrate Judge expressly stated that despite her
finding that the failure of the ALJ to provide good reasons for not fully crediting
Dr. Peter’s opinion was not harmless error, “the ALJ was not required to give
controlling weight to Dr. Peter’s opinion that Champion would miss days of
work.” [23 at 17, n. 3]. The decision to remand was not based on the ALJ’s
treatment of the missing days of work issue; in fact, the Magistrate Judge clearly
agrees with Defendant on the issue of the missing work days. Therefore, the
objection is overruled because Defendant is objecting to a finding that was not
made by the Magistrate Judge.
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The Court having reviewed the record in this case, the R&R  of the
Magistrate Judge is hereby ADOPTED and is entered as the findings and
conclusions of the Court. Accordingly,
IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment  is
GRANTED and Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment  is DENIED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant’s objection  is
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this matter is REMANDED for further
consideration pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. §405(g).
Dated: September 25, 2017
s/Arthur J. Tarnow
Arthur J. Tarnow
Senior United States District Judge
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