Bruner v. Commissioner of Social Security
Memorandum Opinion and Order Adopting 20 Report and Recommendation. The Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED. Judge David A. Ruiz on 9/16/2022. (C,TA)
Case: 1:20-cv-01685-DAR Doc #: 23 Filed: 09/16/22 1 of 5. PageID #: 1169
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
CHRISTINA M. BRUNER,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL
CASE NO. 1:20-cv-01685
JUDGE DAVID A. RUIZ
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Christina M. Bruner filed her Complaint (R. 1) on July 30, 2020, challenging the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her application for Disability
Insurance Benefits and Medicare Qualified Government employee benefits. Pursuant to Local
Rule 72.2, the case was referred to a magistrate judge. Magistrate Judge Knapp issued her Report
and Recommendation (R&R) on November 10, 2021, recommending the Court affirm the
Commissioner’s decision. (R. 20). Plaintiff filed an objection to the R&R within the fourteen-day
deadline, and the Commissioner filed a response. (R. 21; R. 22).
For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff’s objection (R. 21) is OVERRULED and the
R&R (R. 20) is ADOPTED.
I. Standard of Review
When a magistrate judge submits a Report and Recommendation, the Court is required to
conduct a de novo review of those portions of the Report to which an objection has been made.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3); Local Rule 72.3(b). However, “[a] general objection to the entirety of
the magistrate’s report has the same effects as would a failure to object.” Howard v. Sec’y of
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Health & Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991); accord Austin v. Comm’r of Soc.
Sec., 2021 WL 1540389, at *4 (N.D. Ohio Apr. 19, 2021) (finding that a general objection that
merely restates an argument previously presented or simply voices a disagreement with a
magistrate judge’s suggested resolution “has the same effects as would a failure to object”
The Commissioner’s conclusions must be affirmed absent a determination that the
administrative law judge’s (ALJ) decision failed to apply the correct legal standards or made
findings of fact unsupported by substantial evidence in the record. White v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec.,
572 F.3d 272, 281 (6th Cir. 2009). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla of evidence but
less than a preponderance and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion. Brainard v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 889 F.2d 679,
681 (6th Cir. 1989). A decision supported by substantial evidence will not be overturned even
though substantial evidence supports the opposite conclusion. Ealy v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 594
F.3d 504, 512 (6th Cir. 2010); see also Cutlip v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284,
286 (6th Cir. 1994). “The substantial-evidence standard . . . presupposes that there is a zone of
choice within which the decisionmakers can go either way, without interference by the courts.”
Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986) (emphasis added).
Plaintiff’s Brief on the Merits set forth the following assignments of error: the ALJ failed
to (i) “discuss, to any degree, Ms. Bruner’s cardiac and breathing impairments within his
analysis of Dr. [Amanda] Kovolyan’s opinion” on Plaintiff’s functional limitations; (ii) “make
clear to subsequent reviewers the weight he gave Dr. Kovolyan’s opinion and the reason for that
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weight”; and (iii) make “reference to Dr. Kovolyan’s notation of Ms. Bruner’s deconditioning
contributing to her lack of positional tolerance.” (R. 17, PageID# 1111).
Plaintiff’s sole objection to the R&R is that the Magistrate Judge’s reasoning was flawed
when she evaluated the ALJ’s assessment of Dr. Kovolyan’s medical opinion. (R. 21, PageID#
1163). Ultimately, Plaintiff simply disagrees with the Magistrate Judge’s determination that the
ALJ properly assessed Dr. Kovolyan’s opinion. (Id.).
Plaintiff specifically argues that the ALJ’s evaluation of Dr. Kovolyan’s opinion
was insufficient with respect to Plaintiff’s standing and walking limitations. (Id.). As part
of his assessment of Plaintiff’s residual functional capacity, the ALJ wrote a singlespaced paragraph—spanning nearly a full page in length—analyzing Dr. Kovolyan’s
medical opinion.1 (R. 13, PageID# 107–108). The ALJ considered, inter alia, Plaintiff’s
lifting and carrying limitations; sitting, standing, and walking limitations; manipulative
limits; postural limits, environmental limits; and mental limitations. (Id.). After
discussing each of these limitations, the ALJ concluded that he would afford Dr.
Kovolyan’s opinion “no more than partial weight.” (Id., PageID# 108).
The R&R addressed each of Plaintiff’s assignments of error and determined that
none constituted reversible error. The Magistrate Judge first found that a “plain reading
of the text” makes clear that the ALJ assigned “partial weight” to Dr. Kovolyan’s
opinion. (R. 20, PageID# 1155). Next, the Magistrate Judge pointed to specific sentences
from the ALJ’s decision to demonstrate that the ALJ did in fact consider Plaintiff’s
In addition to correctly referring to the provider as Dr. Kovolyan, the ALJ’s decision mistyped
her last name as Kovolyn and Lovolyan. (R. 13, PageID# 107).
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cardiac and breathing impairments when evaluating Dr. Kovolyan’s opinion. (Id.,
PageID# 1156–1158). Finally, the Magistrate Judge determined that “[w]hile the ALJ did
not specifically discuss the reference to deconditioning, a review of the decision as a
whole reflects that he did explicitly consider evidence of record relevant to
deconditioning, including Ms. Bruner’s periodic reports of shortness of breath, wheezing,
or dyspnea on exertion.” (Id., PageID# 1160).
The heart of Plaintiff’s objection to the R&R contends that the Magistrate Judge
erred by finding that the ALJ properly assessed Dr. Kovolyan’s opinion—thereby
rejecting Plaintiff’s contention that the ALJ committed reversible error by failing to
consider Plaintiff’s cardiac and breathing impairments when analyzing Plaintiff’s
standing and walking limitations. (R. 21, PageID# 1163). Although acknowledging that
the ALJ considered those impairments elsewhere in his evaluation of Dr. Kovolyan’s
opinion, Plaintiff contends that is not sufficient. (Id.).
Plaintiff cites no legal authority to support her argument, and the Court holds that
the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff’s cardiac and breathing impairments when
evaluating Dr. Kovolyan’s opinion. As the Magistrate Judge pointed out, it is clear that
the ALJ discussed Plaintiff’s cardiac and breathing impairments throughout the ALJ’s
decision and during his extensive analysis of Dr. Kovolyan’s opinion. (R. 20, PageID#
1156–1158; R. 13, PageID# 107–108). The ALJ’s consideration of the pertinent records,
Dr. Kovolyan’s opinion, and Plaintiff’s limitations demonstrates substantial evidence
supporting the ALJ’s decision to assign “partial weight” to Dr. Kovolyan’s overall
opinion. In addition, a reviewing court reads an ALJ’s decision as a whole and the ALJ is
not required to “reproduce the list of . . . treatment records” multiple times when
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“explain[ing] why [a treating source’s] opinion was inconsistent with [the] record.” Crum
v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 660 F. App’x 449, 457 (6th Cir. 2016); Bledsoe v. Barnhart, 165
F. App’x 408, 411 (6th Cir. 2006) (finding no need to require the ALJ to “spell out every
fact a second time”). Simply put, the ALJ did not need to re-identify Plaintiff’s cardiac
and breathing impairments when specifically considering Plaintiff’s standing and walking
limitations because the ALJ had already considered those impairments (two sentences
earlier in the decision) when assessing related portions of Dr. Kovolyan’s opinion. (R. 13,
The Court has carefully reviewed the Report and Recommendation, according to the
above-referenced standard, and agrees with the findings set forth therein. In addition, the Court
has considered and overruled Plaintiff’s objection, for the foregoing reasons. Therefore, the
Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation (R. 20) is hereby ADOPTED, and the
Commissioner’s decision is hereby AFFIRMED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/ David A. Ruiz
David A. Ruiz
United States District Judge
Date: September 16, 2022
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