Glenn v. Commissioner of Social Security
Memorandum Opinion and Order Adopting Report and Recommendation re 15 affirming the Commissioner's denial of Plaintiff's claims. Judge Christopher A. Boyko on 11/30/2017. (R,D)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL
CASE NO. 1:16CV2531
JUDGE CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO
OPINION AND ORDER
CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO, J.:
This matter comes before the Court upon Plaintiff’s Objections (ECF DKT #16) to
the Report and Recommendation (ECF DKT #15) of Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Parker,
who recommends that the Court affirm the Commissioner’s decision denying Plaintiff’s
Claim for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). For the following reasons, the Court
ADOPTS Magistrate Judge Parker’s Report and Recommendation and AFFIRMS the
Commissioner’s denial of Plaintiff’s Claims.
The following is a factual synopsis of Plaintiff’s claims. The Magistrate Judge’s
Report and Recommendation provides a more complete and detailed discussion of the
facts. For a complete overview of Plaintiff’s medical history, see Magistrate Judge
Parker’s Report and Recommendation, which refers to the original Complaint and
incorporates all documents in relation to the dispute.
On September 30, 2013, Plaintiff filed an Application for Supplemental Security
Income. An administrative law judge (“ALJ”) held a hearing and on November 2, 2015,
the ALJ denied Plaintiff’s claim. After the Appeals Council denied review the decision of
the Commissioner was affirmed.
On October 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed the instant Complaint challenging the
Commissioner’s final decision and asserted a single assignment of error: whether the ALJ
failed to give appropriate weight to the opinion of the second consultative examiner, David
V. House, Ph.D. On October 16, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued his Report and
Recommendation. On October 25, 2017, Plaintiff filed her Objections to the Report and
Recommendation. On November 1, 2017, Defendant filed a Response to Plaintiff’s
STANDARD OF REVIEW
A district court's review of a final administrative decision of the Commissioner
made by an ALJ in a Social Security action is not de novo. Norman v. Astrue, 694
F.Supp.2d 738, 740 (N.D. Ohio 2010) report adopted by 2011 WL 233697 (N.D. Ohio
2011). Rather, a district court is limited to examining the entire administrative record to
determine if the ALJ applied the correct legal standards in reaching his decision and if
there is substantial evidence in the record to support his findings. Id. (citing Longworth v.
Commissioner of Social Security, 402 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir. 2005)). “Substantial
evidence” is evidence that a reasonable mind would accept to support a conclusion. Id.
(See Richardson v. Perales, 91 S. Ct. 1420, 1427 (1971)).
LAW AND ANALYSIS
Under the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 423(a), eligibility for benefit payments depends on the
existence of a disability. “Disability” is defined as the “inability to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental
impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §
The ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments.
The ALJ further found that Plaintiff was not under a disability, as defined in the Social
Security Act, at any time from August 27, 2013, the date of application.
Here, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred by failing to give appropriate weight to
Plaintiff’s second consultative examiner, Dr. House. The Magistrate Judge points out that
Dr. House is a non-treating source because he did not have an ongoing treatment
relationship with her. 20 C.F.R. § 416.902. An opinion from a non-treating source is not
entitled to special deference and the ALJ need not give “good reasons” for the weight
afforded such opinions. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.927(c)(2); Smith v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec.,
482 F.3d 873, 876 (6th Cir. 2007) (holding that “the SSA requires ALJs to give reasons for
only treating sources”).
The Magistrate Judge thoroughly evaluated the ALJ’s decision and found that
substantial evidence supported the determination that no marked limitations existed. In
October 2013, at age 22, the Division of Disability Determination referred Plaintiff for a
consultative examination by Michael Faust, Ph.D. Dr. Faust opined that Plaintiff had no
limitations in any work-related mental abilities. On October 25, 2013, state agency
consultant Irma Johnston, Psy.D., reviewed Plaintiff’s claim file. Dr. Johnston found that
there was evidence of a mental disorder resulting in mild difficulties of daily living and
maintaining social functioning, as well as moderate difficulties in maintaining
concentration, persistence or pace, but that Plaintiff retained the ability to understand
verbal instructions for simple, repetitive tasks. A state agency consultant affirmed the
opinion of Dr. Johnston.
Plaintiff was referred to Dr. House for a second consultative examination. Dr.
House opined that Plaintiff presented confused and disoriented at times, appeared
depressed and complained of frequent crying episodes and constant panic attacks, tested
in the borderline intelligence range for IQ, had marked limitations in all listed functional
areas, including her ability to carry out instructions, concentrate, respond appropriately to
coworkers and supervisors and handle work pressures. Dr. House stated that Plaintiff
would be a significant disruption and dysfunction in a work environment.
The Magistrate Judge reviewed the ALJ’s assessment of the conflicting opinions of
Dr. House and Dr. Faust. The ALJ gave greater weight to Dr. Faust based on Plaintiff’s
testimony at the hearing as well as the examination report. The ALJ noted that Plaintiff
reported different complaints to the two doctors regarding the reason she left her job and
her cognitive abilities. The ALJ found that Plaintiff’s complaints were not entirely credible.
Dr. Faust noted that she did not have difficulty understanding instructions, she did not
exhibit any symptoms of anxiety or depression and had no previous problems at work
other than being unable to read or write. Dr. House reported that Plaintiff would be a
significant disruption in a workplace, but there is no support in the record for such
limitations. The Magistrate Judge points out that Plaintiff had successfully worked in
As the Magistrate Judge states, the Court’s review is limited to determining
whether substantial evidence in the record supported the ALJ’s findings of fact and
whether the ALJ correctly applied the appropriate legal standards. See Elam v. Comm’r
of Soc. Sec., 348 F.3d 124, 125 (6th Cir. 2003) (“decision must be affirmed if the
administrative law judge’s findings and inferences are reasonably drawn from the record
or supported by substantial evidence, even if that evidence could support a contrary
decision.”); Kinsella v. Schweiker, 708 F.2d 1058, 1059 (6th Cir. 1983).
The Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge’s conclusion that substantial evidence
supported the ALJ’s decision, even though Dr. House’s findings support an opposite
conclusion. The court “must defer to an agency's decision even if there is substantial
evidence in the record that would have supported an opposite conclusion, so long as
substantial evidence supports the conclusion reached by the ALJ.” Foster v. Halter, 279
F.3d 348, 353 (6th Cir. 2001) citing Key v. Callahan, 109 F.3d 270, 273 (6th Cir.1997)
(internal quotations omitted); See also Bass v. McMahon, 499 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir.
2007)( “If the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence, then reversal would not
be warranted even if substantial evidence would support the opposite conclusion.”)
Based upon the foregoing analysis, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s Objections are
without merit and the Commissioner’s decision denying Plaintiff’s Application for
Supplemental Security Income is supported by substantial evidence. Therefore, the
Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation (ECF DKT #15) is ADOPTED and the
Commissioner’s denial of Plaintiff’s Claim is AFFIRMED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/Christopher A. Boyko
CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO
United States District Judge
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