Cantu v. Commissioner of Social Security
OPINION; signed by District Judge Paul L. Maloney (Judge Paul L. Maloney, acr)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
BRENDA S. CANTU,
Case No. 1:16-cv-741
HONORABLE PAUL L. MALONEY
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL
This is a social security action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking judicial
review of a final decision by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(Commissioner) denying Plaintiff’s claim for disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental
security income (SSI) under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. Section 405(g) limits the
Court to a review of the administrative record, and provides that if the Commissioner’s decision is
supported by substantial evidence, it shall be conclusive. The Commissioner has found that Plaintiff
is not disabled within the meaning of the Act.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
The scope of judicial review in a social security case is limited to determining
whether the Commissioner applied the proper legal standards in making her decision and whether
there exists in the record substantial evidence supporting that decision. See Brainard v. Sec’y of
Health & Human Servs., 889 F.2d 679, 681 (6th Cir. 1989). The Court may not conduct a de novo
review of the case, resolve evidentiary conflicts, or decide questions of credibility. See Garner v.
Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984). It is the Commissioner who is charged with finding the
facts relevant to an application for disability benefits, and her findings are conclusive provided they
are supported by substantial evidence. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance. See
Cohen v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 964 F.2d 524, 528 (6th Cir. 1992) (citations omitted).
It is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.
See Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Bogle v. Sullivan, 998 F.2d 342, 347 (6th Cir.
1993). In determining the substantiality of the evidence, the Court must consider the evidence on
the record as a whole and take into account whatever evidence in the record fairly detracts from its
weight. See Richardson v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 735 F.2d 962, 963 (6th Cir. 1984). The
substantial evidence standard presupposes the existence of a zone within which the decision maker
can properly rule either way, without judicial interference. See Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545
(6th Cir. 1986) (citation omitted). This standard affords to the administrative decision maker
considerable latitude, and indicates that a decision supported by substantial evidence will not be
reversed simply because the evidence would have supported a contrary decision. See Bogle, 998
F.2d at 347; Mullen, 800 F.2d at 545.
Plaintiff was thirty-nine years of age on the date of the ALJ’s decision. (PageID.43,
72.) She completed high school and has worked in the past as a unit coordinator and phlebotomist.
(PageID.94–278.) Plaintiff has previously applied for benefits in 2010. That application resulted
in an unfavorable decision by an ALJ on July 13, 2012. It does not appear that Plaintiff further
pursued that application. (PageID.102–122.) Instead, Plaintiff filed a new application for DIB and
SSI on September 4, 2013, alleging disability due to a back injury, back surgery with hardware
placement, Type I diabetes, depression, anxiety, and chronic back pain. (PageID.123–124, 145–146,
238–250.) These applications were denied on January 15, 2014, after which time Plaintiff requested
a hearing before an ALJ. (PageID.173–193.) On April 9, 2015, Plaintiff appeared with her counsel
before ALJ Nicholas Ohanesian for an administrative hearing at which time both Plaintiff and a
vocational expert (VE) testified. (PageID.65–100.) On May 8, 2015, the ALJ issued his written
decision, concluding that Plaintiff was not disabled. (PageID.43–64.) On April 21, 2016, the
Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ’s decision, making it the Commissioner’s final decision
in the matter. (PageID.31–35.) Plaintiff subsequently initiated this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
The social security regulations articulate a five-step sequential process for evaluating
disability. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a-f), 416.920(a-f).1 If the Commissioner can make a
dispositive finding at any point in the review, no further finding is required. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a). The regulations also provide that if a claimant suffers from a
An individual who is working and engaging in substantial gainful activity will not be found to be
“disabled” regardless of medical findings (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b));
An individual who does not have a “severe impairment” will not be found “disabled” (20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(c) 416.920(c));
If an individual is not working and is suffering from a severe impairment which meets the duration
requirement and which “meets or equals” a listed impairment in Appendix 1 of Subpart P of
Regulations No. 4, a finding of “disabled” will be made without consideration of vocational factors
(20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.20(d));
If an individual is capable of performing work he or she has done in the past, a finding of “not
disabled” must be made (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e));
If an individual’s impairment is so severe as to preclude the performance of past work, other factors
including age, education, past work experience, and residual functional capacity must be considered
to determine if other work can be performed. (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(f), 416.920(f)).
nonexertional impairment as well as an exertional impairment, both are considered in determining
the claimant’s residual functional capacity (RFC). See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545, 416.945.
Plaintiff has the burden of proving the existence and severity of limitations caused
by her impairments and that she is precluded from performing past relevant work through step four.
Jones v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003). At step five, it is the
Commissioner’s burden “to identify a significant number of jobs in the economy that accommodate
the claimant’s residual functional capacity (determined at step four) and vocational profile.” Id.
In the decision, the ALJ first discussed Plaintiff’s prior application for benefits.
Noting that Plaintiff did not request that the prior application be reopened, the ALJ declined to
reopen that application and concluded that the June 13, 2012, decision was final and binding. As
such, despite Plaintiff’s earlier alleged onset date, the ALJ stated that the issue of disability would
be considered beginning July 14, 2012, the day after the prior decision. (PageID.46.)
Turning to the sequential analysis, at step one the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged disability onset date. (PageID.49.) At step
two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the severe impairments of: (1) degenerative disc
disease of the thoracic spine, status post fusion; (2) diabetes mellitus; (3) carpal tunnel syndrome;
and (4) affective disorder (adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depression). (PageID.49.)
At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or equaled the requirements of the Listing of Impairments found in 20 C.F.R.
Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1. (PageID.49–52.) At step four, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the
RFC based on all the impairments to perform:
less than a full range of light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b)
and 416.967(b) with need to change position every half hour for one
to two minutes; is capable of occasionally climbing ramps and stairs
and never climbing ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; be able to
occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl; is limited to frequent
handling, fingering and feeling bilaterally; limited to concentrated
exposure to vibration; limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks;
working in a small familiar group. I am defining a small familiar
group as a group of ten employees or less.:
Continuing with the fourth step, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was unable to
perform any of her past relevant work. (PageID.57–58.) At the fifth step, the ALJ questioned the
VE to determine whether a significant number of jobs exist in the economy that Plaintiff could
perform given her limitations. See Richardson, 735 F.2d at 964. The VE testified that Plaintiff
could perform work in the following representative jobs: machine tender (7,800 regional positions),
line attendant (4,800 regional positions), and packager (6,300 regional positions.) (PageID.95–97.)
Based on this record, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was capable of making a successful adjustment
to work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. (PageID.59.)
Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled from April 28, 2009,
through May 8, 2015, the date of decision. (PageID.59.)
Plaintiff’s brief provides a lengthy excerpt of a March 13, 2013, opinion from Dr.
Gretchen Goltz.2 (PageID.908–910.) Dr. Goltz’s opinion is contained in a lumbar spine medical
On August 22, 2016, the Court entered a notice directing the filing of briefs in this matter. Among other
things, the notice stated that Plaintiff’s initial brief “must contain a Statement of Errors, setting forth in a separately
numbered section, each specific error of fact or law upon which Plaintiff seeks reversal or remand. Failure to identify
an issue in the Statement of Errors constitutes a waiver of that issue.” (PageID.899.) Plaintiff’s initial brief provides
only a vague and generic statement of errors. (PageID.907.) The Court therefore has framed the issues for review and
has gleaned an argument that the ALJ’s discussion of Dr. Gretchen Goltz’s opinion violates the treating physician rule
from Plaintiff’s brief. Plaintiff’s counsel is cautioned that future briefs that fail to provide a statement of errors
containing specific errors may be stricken.
source statement worksheet in which her sole obligation was to fill in a blank, circle an answer,
check a box, or provide a short answer. (PageID.368–371.) Dr. Goltz’s responses to the worksheet’s
questions indicate that she had been treating Plaintiff since January 21, 2009. She had diagnosed
Plaintiff with post-surgical pain in the thoracic spine and Plaintiff’s prognosis was “fair.”
(PageID.368.) When asked to describe the clinical findings that show the claimant’s medical
impairments, Dr. Goltz wrote that Plaintiff had muscle spasms in the thoracic spine. There was
decreased range of motion, flexion, and extension. Additionally, Dr. Goltz identified a chronic
compress deformity at T11, and postoperative changes at T9-L1. (PageID.368.) Plaintiff’s
symptoms included pain in the mid-thoracic spine that radiated to the shoulder and sides, as well as
a depressed mood due to the chronic pain. Plaintiff also had dysfunctional sleep and poor blood
sugar control. (PageID.368.) Dr. Goltz believed that Plaintiff could only walk one or two city
blocks without rest. She could sit for forty-five minutes at one time before needing to get up, and
stand for forty minutes before needing to sit down or walk around. (PageID.369.) In total, Plaintiff
could only sit for about two hours and stand or walk for about two hours during the workday.
Furthermore, Dr. Goltz wrote that, were she to work, Plaintiff would need to be able
to walk for a period of fifteen minutes, every forty-five minutes. (PageID.370.) Plaintiff would need
to take unscheduled breaks five to six times a day, each lasting for a period of twenty minutes.
(PageiD.370.) Plaintiff would likely be off task for twenty-five percent or more of the workday and
was capable of only low stress work. (PageID.371.) She could only occasionally lift and carry less
than ten pound weights, rarely lift and carry ten pound weights, and never lift or carry heavier
weights. Plaintiff could never stoop, crouch, or climb ladders, and only rarely twist and climb stairs.
(PageID.370.) During the workday, Plaintiff could never use her arms for reaching overhead, and
only use her hands to grasp, turn, and twist objects for ten to twenty percent of the day.
(PageiD.370–371.) Finally, were she to work, Dr. Goltz stated that she would expect Plaintiff to be
absent more than four days per month. (PageID.371.) On April 1, 2015, Dr. Goltz wrote that she
believed these limitations were still valid. (PageID.898.)
After summarizing Dr. Goltz’s opinion, the ALJ gave it only “little weight:”
While Dr. Goltz is the claimant’s treating physician and has a
longitudinal history of her medical condition, Dr. Goltz’s extreme
opinion is inconsistent with the record as a whole and more
specifically, with her own treatment records. The records indicate
that the claimant’s conditions are controlled with minimal
conservative treatment. For example, she does not receive any
treatment for her carpal tunnel syndrome, her diabetes is controlled
with insulin, her affective disorder is controlled with psychotropic
medication, and her spine condition is controlled with injection
therapy. In addition, the claimant has minimal findings on
examination. For example, Dr. Goltz’ examination in March 2013
that revealed some limited range of motion in the spine, but no
sensory loss, intact reflexes, normal gait and normal lower extremity
muscle tone (Exhibit B6F/69); and her examination in August 2013
that revealed normal musculoskeletal range of motion, normal muscle
strength, intact motor functions, and stability in all extremities with
no pain on palpation (Exhibit B6F/111). Additional examples are the
examinations in July and December of 2014 that revealed the
claimant appeared comfortable and had a steady gait, full strength in
the lower extremities, intact cerebellar functions and the ability to
flex to the knees (Exhibit B22F/1, 5).
(PageID.54–55.) Plaintiff’s argument here is brief, and is readily quoted in its entirety.
The above-mentioned limitations would preclude all competitive
employment. This opinion is supported by Ms. Michelle Ross, an
impartial vocational expert who appeared at Claimant’s hearing. Ms.
Ross testified that the Claimant had past work as a unit coordinator
and as a phlebotomist, and she opined that the Claimant was unable
to perform her past relevant work.
In concluding that the Claimant has the residual functional capacity
to perform less than a full range of light work, the Commissioner
erroneously failed to give sufficient weight to the treating physician
Gretchen Goltz, D.O. The Commissioner also improperly afforded
great weight to the opinion of the non-examining state agency
psychologist, Dr. Bruce Douglass.
The opinions of treating sources are accorded substantially greater
deference and weight that a doctor who has seen the Claimant only
once. This includes opinions regarding diagnosis and the nature and
degree of impairment, Golden v. Secretary of Health and Human
Services, 740 F. Supp. 955, 961 (W.D.N.Y., 1990); Stamper v.
Harris, 650 F. Supp. 108 (C.A.6, 1981); Hefner v. Mathews, 574 F.2d
359 (C.A.6, 1978); and Harris v. Heckler, 756 F.2d 431 (C.A.6,
1985). When the opinion of the treating physician is not directly
contradicted, it is to be given complete deference, Shelman v.
Heckler, 821 F.2d 316 (C.A.6., 1987); Harris, supra; King v. Heckler,
742 F.2d 968 (C.A.6, 1984); Golden, supra. An opinion of a treating
physician should not be rejected in the absence of a proper legal basis
for rejecting the opinion, Shelman, supra. If it is established that the
treating physician rule has been applied incorrectly then a “ . . . denial
of benefits may not be upheld based on the substantial evidence
standard.” Golden, supra.
A review of the medical records as whole reflects that the Claimant
suffered a slip and fall in 2009 and ultimately ended up having a T9L1 thoracolumbar fusion. Postoperatively, the claimant reported
minimal improvement in her pain overall. She then had another slip
and fall injury in January 2013 and has experienced severe low back
and right leg pain ever since. The records of Dr. Goltz reflect that the
Claimant was trialed on a TENS unit and numerous medications
(Flexeril, Motrin, Neurontin, Norco) and Claimant was ultimately
referred to a pain management clinic for injection therapy and to a
physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist. Despite undergoing
extensive conservative measures, Claimant’s thoracic and low back
(PageID.910–911) (internal administrative record citations omitted).
Plaintiff first claims the ALJ erred in assigning greater weight to the opinion of Dr.
Bruce Douglass than to the opinion of Dr. Goltz because Dr. Goltz was a treating physician and Dr.
Douglass was a state agency psychologist who did not even examine Plaintiff. It is true that, as a
general matter, the Commissioner will give “more weight to medical opinions from [a claimant’s]
treating sources, since these sources are likely to be the medical professionals most able to provide
a detailed, longitudinal picture of [a claimant’s] medical impairment(s) and may bring a unique
perspective to the medical evidence that cannot be obtained from the objective medical findings
alone or from reports of individual examinations, such as consultative examinations or brief
hospitalizations.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(c)(2), 416.927(c)(2). But is by no means as rigid a rule
as Plaintiff would apparently prefer. To the contrary, “Social Security regulations recognize that
opinions from non-examining state agency consultants may be entitled to significant weight, because
these individuals are ‘highly qualified’ and are ‘experts in Social Security disability evaluation.’”
Cobb v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., No. 1:12–cv–2219, 2013 WL 5467172, at *5 (N.D. Ohio Sept. 30,
2013) (quoting 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(e)(2)(I), 416.927(e)(2)(I)); see Barker v. Shalala, 40 F.3d 789,
794 (6th Cir. 1994). Indeed, “in appropriate circumstances, opinions from State agency medical and
psychological consultants . . . may be entitled to greater weight than the opinions of treating or
examining sources.” Brooks v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 531 F. App’x 636, 642 (6th Cir. 2013).
The ALJ is responsible for weighing conflicting medical opinions. See Buxton v.
Halter, 246 F.3d 762, 775 (6th Cir. 2001); see also Reynolds v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 424 F. App’x
411, 414 (6th Cir. 2011) (“This court reviews the entire administrative record, but does not
reconsider facts, re-weigh the evidence, resolve conflicts in evidence, decide questions of credibility,
or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ.”). Where a treating physician’s opinion is not
supported by objective medical facts, a non-examining physician’s opinion may be accepted over
it “when the non-examining physician clearly states the reasons for his differing opinion.” Carter
v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 36 F. App’x 190, 191 (6th Cir. 2002). Here, it is patent the ALJ understood
the agency consultant had not examined Plaintiff, but nonetheless noted that the opinion was
consistent with the record and was based upon the consultant’s detailed knowledge of agency
regulations. (PageID.56.) Furthermore, the ALJ found that Dr. Goltz’s opinion was not well
supported and was inconsistent with the record. As laid out below, Plaintiff does not identify a
reversible error regarding this opinion. Accordingly, the ALJ properly evaluated Dr. Douglass’
opinion under 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(c), 416.927(c) and did not err in assigning it greater weight
than to Dr. Goltz’s opinion.
The thrust of Plaintiff’s claim, however, is that the ALJ should have given complete
deference to Dr. Goltz’s opinion because it was not directly contradicted. The record does not
support Plaintiff’s contention.
By way of background, the treating physician doctrine recognizes that medical
professionals who have a long history of caring for a claimant and her maladies generally possess
significant insight into her medical condition. See Barker v. Shalala, 40 F.3d 789, 794 (6th Cir.
1994). An ALJ must, therefore, give controlling weight to the opinion of a treating source if: (1) the
opinion is “well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques”
and (2) the opinion “is not inconsistent with the other substantial evidence in the case record.”
Gayheart v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 710 F.3d 365, 375–76 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting 20 C.F.R. §
Such deference is appropriate, however, only where the particular opinion “is based
upon sufficient medical data.” Miller v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 1991 WL 229979 at *2
(6th Cir., Nov. 7, 1991) (citing Shavers v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 839 F.2d 232, 235 n.1
(6th Cir. 1987)).3 The ALJ may reject the opinion of a treating physician where such is unsupported
by the medical record, merely states a conclusion, or is contradicted by substantial medical evidence.
See Cohen, 964 F.2d at 528; Miller, 1991 WL 229979 at *2 (citing Shavers, 839 F.2d at 235 n.1);
Cutlip v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286–87 (6th Cir. 1994).
If an ALJ accords less than controlling weight to a treating source’s opinion, the ALJ
must “give good reasons” for doing so. Gayheart, 710 F.3d at 376. Such reasons must be
“supported by the evidence in the case record, and must be sufficiently specific to make clear to any
subsequent reviewers the weight the adjudicator gave to the treating source’s medical opinion and
the reasons for that weight.” This requirement “ensures that the ALJ applies the treating physician
rule and permits meaningful review of the ALJ’s application of the rule.” Id. (quoting Wilson v.
Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 378 F.3d 541, 544 (6th Cir. 2004)). Simply stating that the physician’s
opinions “are not well-supported by any objective findings and are inconsistent with other credible
evidence” is, without more, too “ambiguous” to permit meaningful review of the ALJ’s assessment.
Id. at 376–77.
Plaintiff’s specific argument here is difficult to ascertain. To the extent she claims the
ALJ did not cite evidence that “directly contradicted” the opinion, she does show how the ALJ’s
discussion failed to pass muster. Plaintiff’s daily activities and conservative treatment are certainly
difficult to square with the extreme limitations provided by Dr. Goltz. Furthermore, Plaintiff does
not even attempt to argue the ALJ failed to provide good reasons for assigning less than controlling
weight to Dr. Goltz’s opinion. Assuming she had, Plaintiff still could not succeed, as the offered
This authority is entirely consistent with the authority Plaintiff depends upon. See Harris v. Heckler, 756 F.2d
431, 435 (6th Cir. 1985) (noting that deference should be accorded a treating physician’s opinion “only if the treating
physician’s opinion is based on sufficient medical data”).
reasons are supported by overwhelming evidence.
Plaintiff began receiving injection therapy from Dr. Sears on March 25, 2013. Even
at that initial visit, Plaintiff had a steady gait, and was able to toe, heel, and tandem walk. She had
full lower and upper extremity strength. (PageID.385, 390.) Plaintiff initially reported about 3040% pain relief with injections. She reported she was able to take less pain medications and was
more active. (PageID.381–382.) She was referred to a Dr. Marquart, a neurosurgeon, for her
complaints of pain. On July 9, 2013, however, Dr. Marquart indicated he did not recommend
surgery and thought that Plaintiff’s complaints would clear up. A physical examination found an
intact gait and station, and a straight leg raise test was negative. (PageID.394–397.) Plaintiff
continued to receive injections, and by December 22, 2014, she reported 80% relief lasting a period
of three months. (PageID.893, 897.) These records provide substantial evidence in support of the
ALJ’s finding that Plaintiff experienced relief through conservative treatment. This was an
appropriate consideration for the ALJ to make. See Matar v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., No. 1:15-CV-291,
2016 WL 1064627, at *10 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 15, 2016) (collecting cases), report and recommendation
adopted, No. 1:15CV291, 2016 WL 1556147 (S.D. Ohio Apr. 18, 2016).
The record certainly indicates Plaintiff struggled with depression. On December 20,
2013, for example, Plaintiff drank as a way to cope with her depression and ended up being taken
to jail for drinking and driving. (PageID.804.) Subsequent counseling records, however, indicate
that Plaintiff’s main fears and anxieties related to the legal process as a result of her arrest.
(PageID.798-801.) Dr. Goltz also treated Plaintiff for her depression. On March 13, 2013, the date
Dr. Goltz completed her opinion, Plaintiff had a depressed affect, but was oriented to time, place,
person, and situation. Plaintiff was not fearful and did not have flight of ideas. While she had mood
swings, she had normal insight and judgment. (PageiD.482–483.) Dr. Goltz continued Plaintiff’s
dosage and prescription for Cymbalta.
On June 4, 2013, Plaintiff reported her depression was worsening and it was difficult
to function. She reported that Cymbalta was not helping much. (PageID.499.) Again, however,
while she had a depressed affect, she was oriented to time, place, person, and situation. She was not
anxious, fearful, or in denial. She was not forgetful. (PageID.500.) Plaintiff made similar
complaints to Dr. Goltz on December 16, 2013. Continuing the pattern, Plaintiff was oriented to
time, place, person, and situation, she was not in denial or forgetful. She had normal insight and
judgment, as well as normal attention and concentration. (PageID.625.) Accordingly, the ALJ’s
determination that Dr. Goltz’s opinion was inconsistent with her treatment notes is supported by
substantial evidence. The Court does not doubt that Plaintiff suffers from a certain amount of
limitation due to her impairments, however Plaintiff has not demonstrated how she is limited to an
extent greater than the restrictions accounted for in the RFC.
The last paragraph of Plaintiff’s brief does not appear to have any relevance to the
ALJ’s discussion of Dr. Goltz’s opinion. Instead it appears Plaintiff contends that her complaints
of pain establishes that she is disabled. As the Sixth Circuit has long recognized, “pain alone, if the
result of a medical impairment, may be severe enough to constitute disability.” King v. Heckler, 742
F.2d 968, 974 (6th Cir. 1984); see also Grecol v. Halter, 46 F. App’x 773, 775 (6th Cir. 2002). As
the relevant Social Security regulations make clear, however, a claimant’s “statements about [her]
pain or other symptoms will not alone establish that [she is] disabled.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1529(a),
416.929(a); see also Walters v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 531 (6th Cir. 1997) (quoting 20
C.F.R. § 404.1529(a)); Hash v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 309 F. App’x 981, 989 (6th Cir. 2009).
In this respect, it is recognized that the ALJ’s credibility assessment “must be
accorded great weight and deference.” Id. (citing Walters, 127 F.3d at 531); see also Heston v.
Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 245 F.3d 528, 536 (6th Cir. 2001) (quoting Myers v. Richardson, 471 F.2d
1265, 1267 (6th Cir. 1972) (“[i]t [i]s for the [Commissioner] and his examiner, as the fact-finders,
to pass upon the credibility of the witnesses and weigh and evaluate their testimony”)). It is not for
this Court to reevaluate such evidence anew, and so long as the ALJ’s determination is supported
by substantial evidence, it must stand. The ALJ found Plaintiff's subjective allegations to not be fully
credible, a finding that should not be lightly disregarded. See Varley v. Sec’y of Health & Human
Servs., 820 F.2d 777, 780 (6th Cir. 1987). In fact, as the Sixth Circuit has stated, “[w]e have held that
an administrative law judge's credibility findings are virtually unchallengeable.” Ritchie v. Comm’r
of Soc. Sec., 540 F. App’x 508, 511 (6th Cir. 2013) (citation omitted).
Here, the ALJ found that Plaintiff’s statements of pain were not entirely credible
based on the medical evidence of record and Plaintiff’s daily activities. (PageID.57.) Plaintiff does
not argue the ALJ erred in this finding, and even admits that her treatment has been conservative.
The Court finds the ALJ’s determination to be supported by substantial evidence.
In sum, the ALJ found that the Dr. Goltz’s opinion was not well supported and
furthermore was inconsistent with the record evidence. The ALJ has provided good reasons,
supported by substantial evidence, in making this finding. The Court finds, therefore, the ALJ did
not violate the treating physician rule with respect to Dr. Goltz’s opinion. This claim of error is
For the reasons articulated herein, the Court concludes that the ALJ’s decision is
supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the Commissioner’s decision is AFFIRMED.
A separate judgment shall issue.
Dated: May 23, 2017
/s/ Paul L. Maloney
Paul L. Maloney
United States District Judge
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