Belcher v. Commissioner of Social Security
Memorandum Opinion and Order: The decision of the Administrative Law Judge is affirmed; this case is dismissed in its entirety with prejudice (Related document 1 ). Signed by Magistrate Judge George J. Limbert on 9/18/17. (S,AA)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
TANYA R. BELCHER,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL1,
ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL )
CASE NO. 3:16CV2006
GEORGE J. LIMBERT
Plaintiff Tanya R. Belcher (“Plaintiff”) requests judicial review of the final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security Administration (“Defendant”) denying her applications for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). ECF Dkt. #1.
In her brief on the merits, filed on November 14, 2016, Plaintiff asserts that the administrative
law judge (“ALJ”) issued a decision that was not based on substantial evidence and erred as a
matter of law when evaluating the medical opinions of record. ECF Dkt. #10. Defendant filed a
response brief on January 27, 2017. ECF Dkt. #16. Plaintiff did not file a reply brief.
For the following reasons, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the ALJ and dismisses the
instant case in its entirety with prejudice.
Plaintiff protectively filed her applications for DIB and SSI in August 2012, alleging
disability beginning on September 30, 2011. ECF Dkt. #9 (“Tr.”) at 397-404.2 These
applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. at 290-301. Following the
On January 23, 2017, Nancy A. Berryhill became the acting Commissioner of Social Security,
replacing Carolyn W. Colvin.
All citations to the Transcript refer to the page numbers assigned when the Transcript was filed as
a .PDF, rather that the page numbers assigned by the CM/ECF system. When the Transcript was filed the
.PDF included an index, with the indexed pages differentiated from the numerical pages. Accordingly, the
page number assigned in the .PDF mirrors the page number printed on each page of the Transcript, rather than
the page number assigned when the Transcript was filed in the CM/ECF system.
denial, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ, which was held on June 17, 2014. Id. at 150.
A supplementary hearing was held on February 25, 2015. Id. at 124. On March 24, 2015, the
ALJ denied Plaintiff’s applications for DIB and SSI. Id. at 100. Subsequently, the Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff’s request for review. Id. at 1.
On August 11, 2016, Plaintiff filed the instant suit seeking review of the ALJ’s decision.
ECF Dkt. #1. Plaintiff filed a brief on the merits on November 14, 2016. ECF Dkt. #10.
Defendant filed a response brief on January 27, 2017. ECF Dkt. #16. Plaintiff did not file a
SUMMARY OF RELEVANT PORTIONS OF THE ALJ’S DECISION
In the decision issued on March 24, 2015, the ALJ found that Plaintiff met the insured
status requirements of the Social Security Act through March 31, 2015. Tr. at 105. The ALJ
determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 30,
2011, the alleged onset date. Id. Continuing, the ALJ stated that Plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: dermatitis; osteoarthritis; borderline intellectual functioning; depression;
anxiety; and post-traumatic stress disorder. Id. at 106. The ALJ then found that Plaintiff did not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Id.
After consideration of the record, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to: lift and carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds
frequently; stand and/or walk about six hours in an eight-hour workday; sit about six hours in an
eight-hour workday, with normal breaks; and occasionally climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, but
that she must avoid all exposure to fumes, odors, dusts, gases, poor ventilation, and extreme
heat. Tr. at 109. The ALJ also found that Plaintiff: would need instruction by demonstration;
could perform simple, routine, and repetitive tasks with no strict production requirement in a
relatively stable work environment with static work processes and procedures; was unable to
meet high-paced production demands or perform complex and detailed tasks; could have
occasional close, interpersonal interactions with coworkers and occasional interaction with the
public; and must avoid prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures and weather. Id.
Continuing, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had no past relevant work, was a younger
individual on the alleged disability onset date, had at least a high school education and was able
to communicate in English, and that the transferability of job skills was not an issue because
Plaintiff did not have past relevant work. Tr. at 115. Considering Plaintiff’s age, education,
work experience, and RFC, the ALJ found that there were jobs that existed in significant
numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. Id. In conclusion, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act,
from September 30, 2011, through the date of the decision. Id. at 116.
STEPS TO EVALUATE ENTITLEMENT TO SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS
An ALJ must proceed through the required sequential steps for evaluating entitlement to
social security benefits. These steps are:
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) and 416.920(b) (1992));
An individual who does not have a “severe impairment” will not be found
to be “disabled” (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c) (1992));
If an individual is not working and is suffering from a severe impairment
which meets the duration requirement, see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1509 and
416.909 (1992), and which meets or is equivalent to a listed impairment in
20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, a finding of disabled will be made
without consideration of vocational factors (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d) and
If an individual is capable of performing the kind of work he or she has
done in the past, a finding of “not disabled” must be made (20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(e) and 416.920(e) (1992));
If an individual’s impairment is so severe as to preclude the performance
of the kind of work he or she has done in the past, 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) and 416.920(f) (1992)).
Hogg v. Sullivan, 987 F.2d 328, 332 (6th Cir. 1992). The claimant has the burden to go forward
with the evidence in the first four steps and the Commissioner has the burden in the fifth step.
Moon v. Sullivan, 923 F.2d 1175, 1181 (6th Cir. 1990).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under the Social Security Act, the ALJ weighs the evidence, resolves any conflicts, and
makes a determination of disability. This Court’s review of such a determination is limited in
scope by §205 of the Act, which states that the “findings of the Commissioner of Social Security
as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive.” 42 U.S.C. §405(g).
Therefore, this Court’s scope of review is limited to determining whether substantial evidence
supports the findings of the Commissioner and whether the Commissioner applied the correct
legal standards. Abbott v. Sullivan, 905 F.2d 918, 922 (6th Cir. 1990).
The substantial-evidence standard requires the Court to affirm the Commissioner’s
findings if they are supported by “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Cole v. Astrue, 661 F.3d 931, 937 (citing Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)) (internal citation omitted). Substantial evidence is defined as
“more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance.” Rogers v. Comm’r of Soc.
Sec., 486 F.3d 234 (6th Cir. 2007). Accordingly, when substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s
denial of benefits, that finding must be affirmed, even if a preponderance of the evidence exists
in the record upon which the ALJ could have found plaintiff disabled. The substantial evidence
standard creates a “‘zone of choice’ within which [an ALJ] can act without the fear of court
interference.” Buxton v. Halter, 246 F.3d 762, 773 (6th Cir. 2001). However, an ALJ’s failure to
follow agency rules and regulations “denotes a lack of substantial evidence, even where the
conclusion of the ALJ may be justified based upon the record.” Cole, supra (citing Blakely v.
Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 581 F.3d 399, 407 (6th Cir. 2009)) (internal citations omitted).
Plaintiff begins the argument portion of her brief with a section titled “Overview.” ECF
Dkt. #10 at 11. In this section, Plaintiff makes a number of brief arguments. Id. at 11-14. First,
Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ found that there were jobs that existed in significant numbers to
allow Plaintiff to maintain substantial gainful activity, but that Plaintiff lived in a largely rural
area of Ohio with no transportation to other areas for employment. Id. Defendant correctly
states that the appropriate standard is whether jobs that Plaintiff could perform existed in the
national economy, rather than near Plaintiff’s place of residence. ECF Dkt. #16 at 14-15 (citing
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A); Harmon v. Apfel, 168 F.3d 289, 292 (6th Cir. 1999)). Accordingly,
Plaintiff’s argument regarding the number of local jobs available to her is without merit.
Next, Plaintiff claims that treating physician, Craig Thompson, M.D., did not have access
to all of the medical records in this case.3 ECF Dkt. #10 at 11. Plaintiff states that the ALJ
“overruled” the treating physician’s opinion that she was totally and permanently disabled
“because [the ALJ] disagreed,” and that the ALJ could have sent interrogatories to Dr.
Thompson or conducted another hearing if there were “any doubts.” Id. As an initial matter,
Plaintiff does not identify what medical records were available that Dr. Thompson did not have
access to at the time he issued his opinion. See id. More importantly, “[a]n ALJ has discretion
to determine whether further evidence, such as additional testing or expert testimony, is
necessary.” Foster v. Halter, 279 F.3d 348, 355 (6th Cir. 2011); see also 20 C.F.R. §
404.1512(d); Ferguson v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 628 F.3d 269, 275 (6th Cir. 2010). The ALJ did
not commit any error when it was determined that enough evidence was available to issue a
decision since there was no requirement that the ALJ supplement the record.
Continuing, Plaintiff claims that the ALJ “fail[ed] to take any note of the [her] diagnosis
of schizoaffective disorder.” ECF Dkt. #10 at 11. Plaintiff also claims that the ALJ
misunderstood her testimony regarding her auditory hallucinations, erroneously believing the
testimony to be contradictory.4 Id. at 11-12. Despite Plaintiff’s claim to the contrary, the ALJ
Plaintiff discusses the treating physician rule at greater length later in her brief, and the Court will
address these arguments below.
For the remainder of the “Overview” section of her brief, it is not always clear what portion of the
record or the ALJ’s decision Plaintiff relies upon when presenting her arguments since no specific portion
of either is cited. See ECF Dkt. #10 at 11-14. Instead, the citations provided for pages 11-12 of Plaintiff’s
brief all read “Id.,” which refers the Court back to page 185 of the Transcript. Page 185 of the Transcript
contains some of the questions posed by the ALJ to the VE, evidence which is largely immaterial to the
arguments presented by Plaintiff. On page 13 of her brief, Plaintiff cites to page 486 of the Transcript, a letter
from her attorney to the Appeals Counsel, when stating that “a competitive work environment would not
specifically mentioned her diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. See Tr. at 112. Further, it is
unclear where in the decision Plaintiff believes the ALJ misconstrued her statements regarding
hallucinations as inconsistent testimony. The ALJ indicated that Plaintiff answered “not really”
when asked if she experienced auditory hallucinations, but later indicated that she was
experiencing auditory hallucinations. Tr. at 110-11. The ALJ simply observed changes in
Plaintiff’s statements regarding auditory hallucinations. See Tr. at 116. Moreover, the ALJ did
not include these statements as a reason for finding that Plaintiff was not fully credible, further
supporting the conclusion that the ALJ did not take the statements as inconsistent when finding
that Plaintiff was not disabled. See Tr. at 114. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s argument regarding the
ALJ’s treatment of her schizoaffective disorder is without merit.
Plaintiff next asserts that the ALJ’s finding that her hearing loss imposed no more than
minimal limitations on her ability to work was only based on her ability to hear during the
administrative hearings. ECF Dkt. #10 at 12. Continuing, Plaintiff states that she testified that
she had difficulty with her hearing aid in noisy environments. Id. Plaintiff claims that the ALJ
failed to incorporate her difficulties regarding hearing in the RFC. Id. As an initial matter,
Plaintiff does not explain why it was unreasonable for the ALJ to consider her ability to hear
when she appeared for the administrative hearings. Further, Plaintiff omits discussion of the
portion of her testimony in which she states that she had “to turn the hearing aid down to hear
whether someone’s talking to [her] or something” when in a noisy environment. Tr. at 182. The
ALJ then asked Plaintiff whether adjusting the volume of her hearing aid when in noisy
environments “work[ed]” for her, to which Plaintiff responded in the affirmative. Id. at 183.
Based on her testimony, it appears that Plaintiff had some difficulty hearing in noisy
environments, but that this difficulty could be remedied by adjusting the volume of her hearing
aid. Plaintiff has failed to show that the RFC did not adequately address her ability to hear.
allow for the level of supervision that [Plaintiff] requires.” Plaintiff then references back to this page of her
attorney’s letter for the remainder of “Overview” section of her brief, however, the material contained in this
portion of the letter is largely unrelated to her remaining arguments, and, in any event, does not constitute
medical evidence. See id. at 13-14.
Continuing, Plaintiff claims that the ALJ’s determination that she would need instruction
by demonstration and could perform simple, routine, and repetitive tasks did not adequately
represent job limitations that would allow her to maintain substantial gainful employment. ECF
Dkt. #10 at 12-13. Plaintiff discusses her history of special education and being terminated from
past employment as evidence that the ALJ’s RFC finding was inadequate. Id. The ALJ
discussed Plaintiff’s history of special education when making the RFC determination. Plaintiff
does not explain how her history of special education or the notes from her individualized
education plan show that she would be unable to perform tasks that were simple, routine, and
repetitive after being instructed through supervision. Plaintiff’s general allegations that her
history of special education make it impossible for her to maintain employment consistent with
the RFC determination are insufficient to warrant a finding of error. Likewise, Plaintiff cites her
history of being terminated or leaving employment “because she was not fast enough or because
of physical discomfort from her medical conditions.” ECF Dkt. #10 at 13. Plaintiff does not cite
medical or opinion evidence undermining the ALJ’s RFC determination. The ALJ was aware of
Plaintiff’s work history when making the RFC determination, and Plaintiff has failed to provide
sufficient reasons explaining how the ALJ erred when making the determination.
Next, Plaintiff claims that she had limited activities of daily living, and that the ALJ
misunderstood her testimony when finding that she went “out to eat with her church friends once
in a while.” ECF Dkt. #10 at 13-14. The ALJ’s indication that Plaintiff went out to eat with
church friends was made in the context of a discussion of the impact of her mental impairments.
See Tr. at 110-11. While Plaintiff did not testify that she went out to eat with church friends, she
did testify that she enjoyed going out to eat and that she had friends at church that she considered
family. Tr. at 132, 164-65. The fact that the ALJ mistakenly indicated that Plaintiff went out to
eat with her church friends does not render the decision unsupported by substantial evidence,
especially considering Plaintiff testified that she had a “church family” and that she enjoyed
going out to eat. Id.
Further, Plaintiff notes that she has difficulty performing some daily activities, however,
the ALJ discussed a number of her activities of daily living, including: caring for her personal
needs; passing a driving exam and maintaining a driver’s license (but only driving once every
few weeks); cooking; washing clothes; attending church; and grocery shopping with the
assistance of her husband or mother. Tr. at 111. While Plaintiff indicates that she had difficulty
in some activities of daily living, she fails to show that the ALJ erred when determining that her
activities of daily living did not support finding her disabled. “The findings of the
Commissioner are not subject to reversal merely because there exists in the record substantial
evidence to support a different conclusion.” Buxton, 246 F.3d at 773. The ALJ cited a number
of Plaintiff’s activities of daily living when determining that she was not disabled under the
Social Security Act. The fact that Plaintiff can point to several activities which may support a
finding of disability is not grounds to reverse the decision of the ALJ. See id.
Plaintiff also briefly states that IQ tests revealed working memory and perpetual
reasoning skill scores of sixty-nine, and that further IQ testing demonstrated some scores in the
seventies. ECF Dkt. #10 at 14. Based on these scores, Plaintiff states that her deficits “caused
her significant trouble when interacting within our society.” Id. Plaintiff does not allege that the
ALJ was unaware of these IQ scores, or attempt to argue that these scores warrant reversal of the
Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ’s RFC finding is not based on substantial evidence. ECF
Dkt. #10 at 14-15. The entirety of Plaintiff’s argument consists of the following:
Significantly, the ALJ did not cite to any medical opinions from any examining
physicians which supported his finding that [Plaintiff] can perform light work on a
sustainable basis. Light work requires “standing or walking, off and on, for a total
of approximately 6 hours of an 8-hour [workday].” However, the reports of Dr.
Thompson and Dr. McKay do not support such a finding. The [sic] do not believe
that [Plaintiff] has the ability to keep up the pace in a competitive work
Accordingly, the ALJ cited to no medical evidence which supported his RFC
assessment as no such evidence exists in the record. As such, the ALJ’s finding
that [Plaintiff] can perform light work on a sustainable basis is not based on
Id. (internal citations omitted).
First, Plaintiff’s assertion that the ALJ cited no medical evidence which supported his
RFC assessment is simply untrue. In making such a broad statement, Plaintiff appears to
completely disregard the ALJ’s discussion of her: sparse treatment records from 2008-09; mental
health treatment for depression in 2010 and 2011; continued mental health treatment after she
moved back to Ohio from Florida in 2014; medications prescribed to improve her mental health;
meeting with the consultative examiner; treatment notes from 2010 regarding her chest pain;
dermatological history; and treatment with her treating physician. See Tr. at 112-14. Rather
than attempt to explain how any of these medical records do not support the ALJ’s RFC finding,
Plaintiff instead broadly claims that the ALJ made the RFC finding without any basis.
The Court disagrees. The ALJ provided a thorough recitation of Plaintiff’s hearing
testimony, treatment history for both her physical and mental impairments, and the opinions
presented as to her impairments. Tr. at 109-15. When substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s
denial of benefits, that finding must be affirmed, even if a preponderance of the evidence exists
in the record upon which the ALJ could have found the claimant disabled. Rogers, 486 F.3d at
234. The ALJ presented substantial evidence supporting the RFC finding and subsequent denial
of benefits. The Court declines to provide an exhaustive list of medical evidence supporting the
RFC determination, and Plaintiff has not identified any particular medical evidence that
contradicts the ALJ’s RFC finding that needs to be addressed by the Court.
Regarding the opinions from Dr. Thompson and Dr. McKay stating that Plaintiff would
be unable to work, the decision of whether a claimant is capable of work is reserved for the ALJ
and the fact that medical sources stated that Plaintiff was disabled does not mean that the ALJ
was required to find that she was disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(e), 405.1546; Poe v.
Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 342 Fed.Appx. 149, 157 (6th Cir. 2009). Plaintiff does not present any
medical finding made by either physician that she believes contradicts the ALJ’s RFC finding.
See Tr. at 14-15. Plaintiff has failed to establish that the ALJ’s RFC finding is not based on
Treating Physician Rule
Finally, Plaintiff claims that the ALJ erred in assigning “almost no weight” to the
medical opinion of her treating physician, Dr. Thompson. ECF Dkt. #10 at 16. An ALJ must
give controlling weight to the opinion of a treating source if the ALJ finds that the opinion is
well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and diagnostic techniques and not inconsistent
with the other substantial evidence in the record. Wilson v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 378 F.3d 541,
544 (6th Cir. 2004). If an ALJ decides to discount or reject a treating physician’s opinion, he or
she must provide “good reasons” for doing so. Social Security Rule (“SSR”) 96-2p. The ALJ
must provide reasons that are “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.” Id. This allows a claimant to understand how her case is determined, especially when
she knows that her treating physician has deemed her disabled and she may therefore “be
bewildered when told by an administrative bureaucracy that [s]he is not, unless some reason for
the agency’s decision is supplied.” Wilson, 378 F.3d at 544 (quoting Snell v. Apfel, 177 F.3d 128,
134 (2d Cir. 1999)). Further, it “ensures that the ALJ applies the treating physician rule and
permits meaningful appellate review of the ALJ’s application of the rule.” Id. If an ALJ fails to
explain why he or she rejected or discounted the opinions and how those reasons affected the
weight afforded to the opinions, this Court must find that substantial evidence is lacking, “even
where the conclusion of the ALJ may be justified based upon the record.” Rogers, 486 F.3d at
243 (citing Wilson, 378 F.3d at 544).
The Sixth Circuit has noted that, “while it is true that a lack of compatibility with other
record evidence is germane to the weight of a treating physician’s opinion, an ALJ cannot simply
invoke the criteria set forth in the regulations if doing so would not be ‘sufficiently specific’ to
meet the goals of the ‘good reason’ rule.” Friend v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 375 Fed.Appx. 543,
551 (6th Cir. 2010). The Sixth Circuit has held that an ALJ’s failure to identify the reasons for
discounting opinions, “and for explaining precisely how those reasons affected the weight” given
“denotes a lack of substantial evidence, even where the conclusion of the ALJ may be justified
based upon the record.” Parks v. Social Sec. Admin., 413 Fed.Appx. 856, 864 (6th Cir. 2011)
(quoting Rogers, 486 F.3d at 243 ). However, an ALJ need not discuss every piece of evidence
in the administrative record so long as he or she considers all of a claimant’s medically
determinable impairments and the opinion is supported by substantial evidence. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1545(a)(2); see also Thacker v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 99 Fed.Appx. 661, 665 (6th Cir. 2004).
Substantial evidence can be “less than a preponderance,” but must be adequate for a reasonable
mind to accept the ALJ’s conclusion. Kyle v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 609 F.3d 847, 854 (6th Cir.
2010) (citation omitted).
After quoting Dr. Thompson’s assessment of her limitations, Plaintiff presents the
Instead of giving weight to [Plaintiff’s] primary care physician, Dr. Thompson, the
ALJ gives great weight to Dr. Beaty. The ALJ states that Dr. Beaty’s decision in
Exhibit 6F was that “[Plaintiff’s] mental impairments, while imposing some
limitation, do not completely preclude her from all work and do not render her
disabled.” This is completely false and a wholly inaccurate interpretation of
everything Dr. Beaty states in Exhibit 6F. The closes thing that Dr. Beaty gets to
mentioning anything along these lines is the first preliminary impression of
[Plaintiff’s] appearance where he states that “[s]he appeared clean and
appropriately dressed. There were no obvious appearance of being handicapped,
no involuntary movements, and she walked with a normal gait.”
So besides disregarding the primary care physician without good reason, the ALJ
mistakenly and improperly relies on statements that were never made by Dr. Beaty
and gives this nonexistent opinion controlling weight. If Dr. Beaty’s opinion was
actually given controlling weight, there would in fact be a finding of disability for
[Plaintiff] as the doctor’s summary of work related tasks include sitting less than
five minutes, standing one minute, with problems understanding, problems
remembering everything, with severe difficulties sustaining concentration, with
task persistence and with social interactions.
ECF Dkt. #10 at 16-17 (internal citations omitted).
Plaintiff’s argument is without merit. Regarding Dr. Thompson’s opinion, the ALJ was
required to provide “good reasons” for discounting the opinion as Dr. Thompson was a treating
physician. SSR 96-2p. Dr. Thompson opinion that Plaintiff was “totally and permanently
disabled,” mainly due to her underlying psychiatric problems and cognitive impairments. Tr. at
813. When providing reasons for discounting Dr. Thompson’s opinion, the ALJ indicated that
Dr. Thompson stated that Plaintiff was terminated from her last job for “being slow,” a statement
that directly contradicted Plaintiff’s hearing testimony that she quit her job due to skin irritation
and environmental issues. Tr. at 114. Further, the ALJ stated that Dr. Thompson’s limited
treatment with Plaintiff failed to document any specific mental limitation that would warrant
changes to the RFC. Id. The ALJ also noted that Dr. Thompson’s treatment notes stated that
Plaintiff indicated that she did not want to restart her medications as she felt that she was “well
without them.” Id. (quoting Tr. at 878). Additionally, the ALJ correctly stated that Dr.
Thompson’s opinion was largely based on Plaintiff’s subjective reports and inconsistent with the
treatment record. The reasons provided by the ALJ constitute “good reasons” for discounting
Dr. Thompson’s opinion.
Plaintiff does not provide any substantive argument claiming that the ALJ failed to
provide “good reasons” for discounting Dr. Thompson’s opinion, or that any of the reasons
provided by the ALJ constituted an invalid reason for discounting the opinion. See ECF Dkt.
#10 at 16-17. Instead, Plaintiff states that the ALJ disregarded Dr. Thompson’s opinion “without
good reason” and then assigned a misreading of Dr. Beaty’s opinion great/controlling weight.5
According to Plaintiff, since the ALJ assigned great/controlling weight to Dr. Beaty’s opinion, it
was required that all findings in the opinion be adopted verbatim. See id. at 17.
Plaintiff relies on a misapplication of the treating physician rule. The treating physician
rule requires that an ALJ provide “good reasons” if he or she assigns less than controlling weight
to the opinion of a treating source. See Wilson, 378 F.3d at 544; SSR 96-2p. The ALJ provided
“good reasons” for discounting Dr. Thompson’s opinion. Plaintiff does not contest the reasons
offered by the ALJ beyond stating that Dr. Thompson’s opinion was disregarded “without good
reason.” ECF Dkt. #10 at 17. Plaintiff then begins asserting that the ALJ assigned controlling
weight to Dr. Beaty’s opinion, yet failed to actually adopt the findings contained in the opinion.
Id. The ALJ did not assign controlling weight to Dr. Beaty’s opinion, but rather assigned great
weight to the opinion. Tr. at 114. The ALJ was under no obligation to adopt all of the findings
contained in Dr. Beaty’s opinion. Likewise, the ALJ was not required to evaluate the opinion of
Plaintiff first states that the ALJ assigned Dr. Beaty’s opinion great weight, but later begins asserting
that the opinion was assigned controlling weight. See ECF Dkt. #10 at 16-17.
Dr. Beaty pursuant to the treating physician rule as Dr. Beaty was the physician who performed
Plaintiff’s consultative examination, rather than a treating physician.
For Plaintiff to show that the ALJ violated the treating physician rule, it is required that
she demonstrate that the ALJ discounted or rejected a treating physician’s opinion without
providing “good reasons.” See Wilson, 378 F.3d at 544; SSR 96-2p. Plaintiff has failed to make
such a showing. Moreover, Plaintiff provides no substantive argument regarding the reasons the
ALJ provided for assigning Dr. Thompson’s opinion less than controlling weight. Accordingly,
Plaintiff has failed to show that the ALJ violated the treating physician rule.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the ALJ and dismisses the
instant case in its entirety with prejudice.
Date: September 18, 2017
/s/George J. Limbert
GEORGE J. LIMBERT
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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