Schofield v. Commissioner of Social Security
DECISION AND ENTRY Adopting 14 Report and Recommendations of the United States Magistrate Judge. Plaintiff's Objections (Doc. 16) are OVERRULED. The Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED. This case is TERMINATED on the docket of this Court. Signed by Judge Timothy S. Black on 9/20/17. (gs)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL
Case No. 1:16-cv-786
Judge Timothy S. Black
Magistrate Judge Stephanie K. Bowman
DECISION AND ENTRY
(1) ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE UNITED
STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE (Doc. 14), and
(2) OVERRULING PLAINTIFF’S OBJECTIONS (Doc. 16)
This case is before the Court pursuant to the Order of General Reference in the
United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio Western Division to United
States Magistrate Judge Stephanie K. Bowman. Pursuant to such reference, the
Magistrate Judge reviewed the pleadings and memoranda filed with this Court, and on
August 11, 2017, submitted a Report and Recommendations. (Doc.14). On August 29,
2017, Plaintiff filed objections (“Objections”) (Doc. 16).
As required by 29 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b), the Court has
reviewed the comprehensive findings of the Magistrate Judge and considered de novo all
of the filings in this matter. Upon consideration of the foregoing, the Court does
determine that such Report and Recommendations (Doc. 14) should be and is hereby
adopted in its entirety and Plaintiff’s Objections (Doc. 16) should be and are overruled.
Plaintiff’s first objection argues that the Magistrate Judge “inverted the treating
doctor rule” by approving the Administrative Law Judge’s (“ALJ”) decision to give more
weight to state agency doctors than Plaintiff’s treating physicians. (Objections at 6-7).
This argument fails. As explained by the Magistrate Judge, the ALJ set forth sufficient
reasons for why he did not afford Plaintiff’s treating physicians controlling weight; most
notably, because the ALJ found their opinions to be conclusory and not supported by the
record. (R&R at 9-11); see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(4) (“Generally, the more
consistent an opinion is with the record as a whole, the more weight we will give to that
opinion.”); Cutlip v. Sec’y of HHS, 25 F.3d 284, 287 (6th Cir. 1994) (treating physician
opinions are “only accorded great weight when they are supported by sufficient clinical
findings and are consistent with the evidence.”).
Plaintiff’s second objection argues that the Magistrate Judge erroneously endorsed
the use of outdated evidence by approving the ALJ’s decision to give moderate weight to
a 47 month old opinion from Dr. Rudy, a state agency doctor, because Dr. Rudy did not
have the opportunity to review Plaintiff’s updated medical information. (Objections at
8). Similarly, Plaintiff’s sixth objection argues that Dr. Rudy’s report was irrelevant after
2012. (Id. at 14). These arguments fail. An ALJ can reasonably rely on a state agency
physician’s opinion as long as the ALJ considers any evidence that the physician could
not consider, including subsequent medical examinations. (R&R at 12); McGrew v.
Coimm’r of Soc. Sec., 343 F. App’x 26, 32 (6th Cir. 2009). As explained by the
Magistrate Judge, the ALJ’s decision indicates that he considered the entire record when
formulating Plaintiff’s residual functioning capacity. (R&R at 12).
Plaintiff’s third objection argues that the Magistrate Judge erred in failing to
consider the internal inconsistency of Dr. Rudy’s report, to which the ALJ assigned
moderate weight. (Objections at 9). Specifically, Plaintiff argues Dr. Rudy’s notation
that he found Plaintiff’s statement of her disabling systems to be “fully credible” requires
a finding of disability. (Doc. 16 at 9). The Court does not agree. Dr. Rudy’s report states
that Plaintiff’s statement regarding her daily activities—which included being able to
walk a couple miles, driving, attending martial arts class, shopping, and doing household
chores—to be “consistent with the medical evidence.” (Tr. at 121-125). This does not
compel a finding of disability or cast doubt on the consistency of Dr. Rudy’s report.
Plaintiff’s fourth and fifth objections argue that the Magistrate Judge erroneously
approved the ALJ’s decision to scrutinize the treating physicians’ reports more
thoroughly that the state agency physicians’ reports, and in any event, the ALJ’s
criticisms of the treating physicians’ opinions lack merit. (Objections at 9-12). These
arguments fail. As explained by the Magistrate Judge, the ALJ sufficiently justified the
weight he assigned to each respective treating physician’s opinion, including their
inconsistency with relevant treating notes. (R&R at 6-12; Tr. at 33-35).
Plaintiff’s seventh objection argues that the Magistrate Judge “used [Plaintiff’s]
ability to perform ordinary activities of daily living as a basis to deny benefits.”
(Objections at 14). This argument fails. As explained by the Magistrate Judge, the ALJ
properly considered whether Plaintiff’s ability to engage in daily activities and to travel
contradicted her testimony of constant physical pain and disabling fatigue. (R&R at 1617).
Plaintiff’s eighth and ninth objections argue that the Magistrate Judge approved of
the ALJ’s attacks on Plaintiff’s character and turned the hearing into an adversarial
proceeding. (Objections at 16-17). The Court does not agree for two reasons. First, to
the extent Plaintiff argues the ALJ had a duty to further develop the record, that duty
typically only exists in special cases, unlike this one, where the claimant is without
counsel and/or unable to present an effective case. See Rise v. Apfel, No. 99-6164, 2000
U.S. App. LEXIS 26851, at *4 (6th Cir. Oct. 13, 2000). In any event, upon review, the
Court finds the ALJ’s decision to be based upon its consideration and weighing of
relevant evidence, not impermissible character traits.
Plaintiff’s tenth objection argues that the Magistrate Judge should have remanded
this action pursuant to the sixth sentence of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) in order to consider an
affidavit Plaintiff submitted to the Appeals Council in May, 2016. (Objections at 19).
This argument is not well-taken. The Court’s review is typically limited to evidence that
was before the Commissioner during the administrative proceedings. Pursuant to
Sentence Six, a court can remand for consideration of new evidence only if the plaintiff
establishes that the evidence is “new” and “material.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). For the
reasons explained in the Report and Recommendations, the Court concludes the affidavit
is neither. (R&R at 20-21).
For the foregoing reasons:
The Report and Recommendations (Doc. 14) is ADOPTED;
Plaintiff’s Objections (Doc. 16) are OVERRULED;
The Commissioner’s decision is AFFIRMED; and
The Clerk shall enter judgment accordingly, whereupon this case is
TERMINATED on the docket of this Court.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Timothy S. Black
United States District Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?