Allison v. Commissioner Social Security Administration
Order Adopting Report and Recommendation. The court finds, after careful de novo review of the Magistrate Judge's R&R and all other relevant documents in the record, that Judge Ruiz's conclusions are fully supported by the rec ord and controlling case law. Accordingly, the court adopts as its own the Magistrate Judge's R&R (ECF No. 17). The court hereby affirms the Commissioner's final decision. Related document 17 . Signed by Judge Solomon Oliver, Jr. on 8/25/2017. (R,Sh)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
MICHAEL E. ALLISON,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL
Case No.: 5:16 CV 2388
JUDGE SOLOMON OLIVER, JR.
The Commissioner of Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denied disability
benefits to Plaintiff Michael E. Allison (“Plaintiff”or “Allison”), in the above-captioned case.
Plaintiff sought judicial review of the Commissioner’s decision, and this court referred the case to
Magistrate Judge David A. Ruiz (“Magistrate Judge” or “Judge Ruiz”) for preparation of a Report
and Recommendation (“R & R”). Both parties submitted briefs on the merits. Plaintiff argued that
the Administrative Law Judge’s (“ALJ”) decision, denying his applications for a Period of Disability,
Disability Insurance Benefits, and Supplemental Security Income under Titles II and XVI of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423, 1381 et seq., was not supported by substantial
evidence because: (1) the ALJ did not properly evaluate Allison’s diarrhea as a symptom of his
severe impairments, (2) the ALJ did not properly evaluate Allison’s credibility, and (3) the ALJ did
not meet his burden at Step Five of the Sequential Evaluation. The Commissioner sought final
judgment upholding the decision below.
Judge Ruiz submitted his R & R (ECF No. 17) on June 23, 2017, concluding that the court
should affirm the Commissioner’s final decision. In his R & R, the Magistrate Judge construes
Allison’s first and second assignments of error as essentially the same claim—that the ALJ failed
to make a proper credibility finding concerning Plaintiff’s claims of frequent bathroom use stemming
from chronic diarrhea. (Id. at 12.) As to this assignment of error, the Magistrate Judge finds that the
ALJ properly considered Plaintiff’s alleged symptoms and adequately explained why he was
discounting these allegations, in consideration of several of the required factors under SSR 96-7p.
(Id. at 12–18.) As to the third assignment of error, Judge Ruiz finds that Plaintiff’s contention— the
ALJ did not meet his burden at Step Five of the Sequential Evaluation— is predicated on a finding
that the ALJ should have credited Plaintiff’s claims of frequent bathroom use stemming from chronic
diarrhea, which would have nullified his ability to perform his past relevant work. However, having
already rejected this argument, the Magistrate Judge concludes that Plaintiff’s argument is moot. (Id.
Plaintiff filed Objections to Report and Recommendation (Objs., ECF No. 18) on July 6,
2017. In his Objections, Allison argues that the ALJ, and the Magistrate Judge, should have
considered the cumulative effects of his diarrhea and fatigue. He notes that there are numerous
medical records which document his complaints, including those from Dr. Watkins, his treating
infectious disease physician. (Id. at 2.) And, he contends that the effects of his fatigue in combination
with his diarrhea, would pose additional limitations on his ability to perform his past work. (Id..at
Contrary to Plaintiff’s contentions, the ALJ did not ignore the medical opinion evidence
regarding either his diarrhea or his fatigue. As the Magistrate Judge describes, the ALJ explicitly
considered Allison’s alleged symptoms related to his diarrhea, but determined that his subjective
statements concerning the severity of these symptoms were not entirely credible. The ALJ also
specifically referenced Dr. Watkins’s notations that Allison experienced recurrent fatigue and nausea
related to his HIV, but, took note of the doctor’s indication that these symptoms were not severe or
sufficient to disrupt Allison’s daily activities, social interaction, or ability to concentrate. (Tr. 16,
ECF No. 11.) In fact, recent records suggested that Allison’s fatigue was not chronic, but rather “off
and on.” (Id. at 18.) After weighing this objective medical evidence against Allison’s subjective
statements, the ALJ found that Plaintiff’s fatigue was not preclusive of all types of work. (Id.)
As such, the ALJ found that the record indicated Allison’s symptom limitations relevant to
these impairments were not as severe as alleged, and she formulated the residual functional capacity
in light of this determination. The court accords great weight and deference to an ALJ’s findings
based on the credibility of a claimant, particularly since an ALJ is charged with the duty of observing
a witness’s demeanor and credibility. Walters v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 531 (6th Cir.
1997). Here, the Plaintiff’s argument fails to demonstrate that the ALJ’s credibility assessment was
not supported by substantial evidence.
Accordingly, the court finds, after careful de novo review of the Magistrate Judge’s R&R and
all other relevant documents in the record, that Judge Ruiz’s conclusions are fully supported by the
record and controlling case law. Accordingly, the court adopts as its own the Magistrate Judge’s R
& R (ECF No. 17). The court hereby affirms the Commissioner’s final decision.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
/s/ SOLOMON OLIVER, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
August 25, 2017
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