Slater v. Commissioner of Social Security
OPINION AND ORDER APPROVING AND ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION 21 ; Judgment to issue; signed by Judge Janet T. Neff (Judge Janet T. Neff, clb)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
RICHARD JAMES SLATER, III,
Case No: 1:11-cv-1214
HON. JANET T. NEFF
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration denying Plaintiff’s claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental
Security Income (SSI) under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The
matter was referred to the Magistrate Judge, who issued a Report and Recommendation (R & R)
(Dkt 21), recommending that this Court affirm the Commissioner’s decision. The matter is presently
before the Court on Plaintiff’s objections to the Report and Recommendation (Dkt 22). Defendant
has filed a Response (Dkt 23). In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and FED. R. CIV. P.
72(b)(3), the Court has performed de novo consideration of those portions of the Report and
Recommendation to which objections have been made. The Court denies the objections and issues
this Opinion and Order.
At the outset of his Objections, Plaintiff repeats his overall argument on appeal that the
ALJ’s decision that Plaintiff was able to perform substantial gainful employment after August 20,
2008, was not supported by substantial evidence. Plaintiff’s objections essentially reiterate the same
two errors raised in his appeal: (1) the ALJ did not properly consider the opinion of Plaintiff’s
treating physician; and (2) the ALJ did not have substantial evidence to support her finding that
Plaintiff could perform a sufficient number of other jobs in the regional economy.
I. Treating Physician Opinion
Plaintiff argues that the Magistrate Judge erred in determining that the Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ) “appropriately weighed the medical treating sources” (Obj. at 1). Plaintiff asserts that
the Magistrate Judge merely quoted the ALJ’s decision at length, and thus repeats the errors of the
ALJ in failing to accord greater weight to the opinions of the treating physician, Dr. Quarnstrom,
and failing to account for the fact that the non-examining physician did not review the later records
of Dr. Quarnstrom.
Plaintiff’s argument is without merit. The Magistrate Judge reviewed the ALJ’s decision in
light of the applicable standards and authority, observing that “[g]enerally, the medical opinions of
treating physicians are given substantial, if not controlling deference” (R & R at 5), and even when
not given controlling weight, the opinion should not necessarily be completely rejected (id. at 6).
The Magistrate Judge noted that this case was subject to a prior decision denying Plaintiff’s
application for disability benefits, and that “[t]he ALJ could not ‘redetermine the findings of a
claimant’s residual functional capacity or other issues previously determined in the absence of new
and additional material evidence or changed circumstances’” (id. at 7, citing Caudill v. Comm’r, 424
F. App’x 510, 514 (6th Cir. 2011)). The Magistrate Judge quoted the ALJ’s analysis addressing
these circumstances and considering all the medical care Plaintiff received during the relevant time
period (id. at 7), and quoted the ALJ’s “careful consideration” of Dr. Quarnstrom’s RFC
questionnaire responses (id. at 8-9). The Magistrate Judge noted that “Plaintiff’s brief and reply
brief do not identify any medical opinion expressed by Dr. Quarnstrom which failed to receive
appropriate weight” (id. at 9). The Magistrate Judge stated that he found no violation of the treating
physician rule (id.).
Plaintiff’s various general objections before this Court again do not identify or discuss any
particular medical opinion of Dr. Quarnstrom that failed to receive appropriate weight.1 As the
Magistrate Judge observed (R & R at 9), and Plaintiff acknowledges (Obj. at 2), certain opinions of
Dr. Quarnstrom were not entitled to consideration, e.g., opinions on the issues of disability and RFC.
Plaintiff has failed to show any basis for rejecting the Magistrate Judge’s analysis and conclusion
that the treating physician rule was properly applied.
Contrary to Plaintiff’s implication, the recent decision in Gayheart v. Commissioner, 710
F.3d 365, 374 (6th Cir. 2013), does not warrant a different result. Despite the fact that the Gayheart
decision was issued while this case was pending (Obj. at 3), the Magistrate Judge cited Gayheart
in the Report and Recommendation (R & R at 3, 6), and was clearly aware of that decision. Plaintiff
does not show that the Report and Recommendation is in any way contrary to the dictates of
II. Sufficient Jobs in the Economy
In a cursory argument, Plaintiff objects that the Magistrate Judge essentially endorsed the
ALJ’s decision concerning other issues “without truly discussing the arguments which Plaintiff’s
earlier Briefs raised regarding those points” (Obj. at 3). Any overall objection in this regard is
denied. Plaintiff’s mere generalized complaint points to no erroneous analysis or legal conclusion
by the Magistrate Judge.
To the contrary, Defendant’s Response contains a detailed review of the ALJ’s analysis and
Plaintiff also complains that he cited previous cases from other judges in this district
“regarding the appropriate number of jobs to be determined in a Social Security case,” which the
Magistrate Judge ignored (id.). Again, Plaintiff’s complaint does not point to any error by the
Magistrate Judge. The Magistrate Judge properly considered Plaintiff’s argument concerning the
sufficiency of the number of jobs in the regional economy, and cited a number of cases to support
the conclusion that 4,000 constituted a significant number of jobs. Plaintiff acknowledged that the
determination of a significant number of jobs must be made on a case-by-case basis. (Pl. Br., Dkt
16 at 15, citing Hall v. Bowen, 837 F.2d 272, 275 (6th Cir. 1988)). Any objection concerning the
Magistrate Judge’s failure to credit the specific cases cited by Plaintiff is denied.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Objections (Dkt 22) are DENIED, the Report and
Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge (Dkt 21) is APPROVED and ADOPTED as the Opinion
of the Court, and the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security is AFFIRMED.
A Judgment will be entered consistent with this Opinion and Order.
Dated: September 26 , 2013
/s/ Janet T. Neff
JANET T. NEFF
United States District Judge
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