Smith v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration
DECISION AND ENTRY ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE (DOC. # 15 ); OBJECTIONS OF PLAINTIFF VALERIE SMITH TO SAID JUDICIAL FILING (DOC. # 16 ) ARE OVERRULED; JUDGMENT TO BE ENTERED IN FAVOR OF DEFENDANT NANCY A. BE RRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, AND AGAINST PLAINTIFF, AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION THAT PLAINTIFF WAS NOT DISABLED AND, THEREFORE, NOT ENTITLED TO BENEFITS UNDER THE SOCIAL SECURITY ACT; TERMINATION ENTRY. Signed by Judge Walter H. Rice on 3/8/17. (pb)
and Recommendations, Doc. #15, as well as upon a thorough de novo review of this
Court's file, including the Administrative Transcript, Doc. #6, and a thorough review of the
applicable law, this Court ADOPTS the Report and Recommendations in their entirety and
OVERRULES Plaintiff's Objections, Doc. #16, to said judicial filing.
The Court, in so
doing, orders the entry of judgment in favor of the Commissioner and against Plaintiff,
affirming the decision of the Commissioner that Plaintiff was not disabled and , therefore,
not entitled to benefits under the Act.
In reviewing the Commissioner's decision, the Magistrate Judge's task is to
determine if that decision is supported by "substantial evidence."
42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1 )(C), this Court, upon objections being made to the Magistrate
Judge's Report and Recommendations, is requ ired to make a de novo review of those
recommendations of the report to which objection is made.
This de novo review, in turn,
requires this Court to re-examine all the relevant evidence, previously reviewed by the
Magistrate Judge, to determine whether the findings "are supported by substantial
Valley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 427 F.3d 388, 390 (6th Cir. 2005).
Court's sole function is to determine whether the record as a whole contains substantial
evidence to support the Commissioner's decision. The Commissioner's findings must be
affirmed if they are supported by "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion."
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401,
91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971) (quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. N.L.R.B., 305 U.S.
197, 229, 59 S.Ct. 206, 83 L.Ed .2d 126 (1938).
"Substantial evidence means more than
a mere scintilla, but only so much as would be required to prevent a directed verdict. "1
Foster v. Bowen, 853 F.2d 483, 486 (6th Cir. 1988). To be substantial, the evidence
"must do more than create a suspicion of the existence of the fact to be established . .. .
[l]t must be enough to justify, if the trial were to a jury, a refusal to direct a verdict when the
conclusion sought to be drawn from it is one of fact for the jury."
LeMaster v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs., 802 F.2d 839, 840 (6th Cir. 1986) (quoting N.L.R.B. v. Columbian
Enameling and Stamping Co., 306 U.S. 292, 300, 59 S.Ct. 501 , 83 L.Ed. 660 (1939)).
In determining "whether there is substantial evidence in the record . .. we review
the evidence in the record taken as a whole."
Wilcox v. Sullivan, 917 F.2d 272, 276-77
(6th Cir. 1980) (citing Allen. v. Califano, 613 F.2d 139, 145 (6th Cir. 1980)).
the Court "may not try the case de nova[;] nor resolve conflicts in evidence[;] nor decide
questions of credibility. "
Jordan v. Comm'rof Soc. Sec., 548 F.3d 417, 422 (6th Cir.
2008) (quoting Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984)).
"The findings of
the Commissioner are not subject to reversal merely because there exists in the record
substantial evidence to support a different conclusion."
772 (6th Cir. 2001 ).
Buxton v. Halter, 246 F.3d 762,
Rather, if the Commissioner's decision "is supported by substantial
evidence, then we must affirm the [Commissioner's] decision[.] even though as triers of
fact we might have arrived at a different result."
Elkins v. Sec'y of Health and Human
Servs., 658 F.2d 437, 439 (6th Cir. 1981) (citing Moore v. Califano, 633 F.3d 727, 729 (6th
Now known as a "Judgment as a Matter of Law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 50 .
In addition to the foregoing, in ruling as aforesaid , this Court makes the following ,
Contrary to Plaintiff's assertion , the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") did not
"make his own independent medical findings by substituting his lay interpretation of the
medical evidence for that of the treating sources" when he decided to assign them little
Doc. #16, PAGEID #681 . Rather, he evaluated the opinions of Ors. Kwasi
Nenonene and Royka Tasnin against both their own treatment notes and the opinions of
the examining and reviewing physicians and psychologists.
From that evaluation, he
concluded that Ors. Nenonene and Tasnin 's opined limitations were not supported by the
treatment notes or evidence of record from other sources. Doc. #7, PAGEID #88-90.
Lack of supportability and inconsistency with other medical sources are valid reasons to
discount treating source opinions, 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(3-4), and the Court will not
disturb those findings.
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ did not provide sufficient scrutiny to the
non-treating source opinions, and thus, his decision to assign them great weight was
made in violation of the Commissioner's rules, which, in turn, meant his finding of
non-disability was not supported by substantial evidence.
Doc. #16, PAGEID #682-83
(citing Soc. Sec. R. 96-6p, 1996 WL 374180, at *2 (Jul. 2, 1996); Cole v. Astrue, 661 F.3d
931 , 937 (6th Cir. 2011 )). Plaintiff's argument is belied by the ALJ's opinion , which
discussed in detail the opinions of the examining and record-reviewing physicians and
psychologists, and the consistency of their opinions with other medical evidence of record .
Doc. #7, PAGEID #87-90.
As discussed above, consistency with other sources is a valid
reason for assigning weight greater weight to a non-treating source.
20 C.F.R. §
404.1527(c)(4). Accordingly, the ALJ 's decisions as to the relative weight to give the
non-treating sources were supported by substantial evidence and must be affirmed.
As the Magistrate Judge correctly observed , the current ALJ 's decision not to
maintain a ten-pound lifting restriction opined by an ALJ as part of a previous disability
application, Doc. #7, PAGEID #132, was supported by substantial evidence and consistent
with Sixth Circuit precedent.
Doc. #15, PAGE ID #668 (Drummond v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 126 F.3d 837, 842 (6th Cir. 1997). The lifting restriction was put in place to avoid
recurrence of then-dormant carpal tunnel syndrome, Doc. #7, PAGEID #130, 132, 133,
and a previous RFC determination has issue-preclusive effect for subsequent applications,
unless new evidence is submitted.
Drummond, 126 F.3d at 842. However, despite finding
Plaintiff's history of carpel tunnel syndrome to be a severe impairment, Doc. #7, PAGEID
#80, the ALJ noted that "[t]he newly submitted evidence shows no significant findings
related to carpal tunnel syndrome, and the claimant has not complained of or sought
treatment for this condition. " Id. , PAGE ID #87. The ALJ reasonably concluded from the
absence of any findings or treatment that her carpal tunnel had not recurred , and that the
specific ten-pound limit was no longer necessary to prevent any recurrence.
ALJ 's conclusion was reasonable and well-supported, and adhered to the issue preclusion
requirements set forth in Drummond. Accordingly, the removal of the restriction was not
legal error and is not grounds for reversal.
The ALJ provided specific reasoning for discounting Plaintiff's
credibility-specifically, Plaintiff's inconsistent statements to Dr. Jerry Flexman, the
Commissioner's examining psychologist, regarding her history with alcohol dependency.
Moreover, the ALJ noted a history of "inconsistent statements made by the claimant to
sources regarding her history of psychiatric hospitalization, legal history, and cocaine and
Doc. #7, PAGEID #86 (citations omitted).
Further, the ALJ accounted for
Plaintiff's statement on June 12, 2013-after the alleged disability onset date-that she
was actively looking for work, "which presents the question of why she was looking for a
job when she has stated ... that she is physically and mentally unable to perform work
Id. "[A]n ALJ's findings based on the credibility of the applicant are to be
accorded great weight and deference," Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525,
531 (6th Cir. 1997), and "[d]iscounting credibility to a certain degree is appropriate where
an ALJ finds contradictions among the medical reports, claimant's testimony, and other
Id. Accordingly, the ALJ 's decision to find Plaintiff's testimony not fully
credible was well-supported and will be affirmed .
WHEREFORE, based upon the aforesaid, this Court ADOPTS the Report and
Recommendations of the Magistrate Judge, Doc. #15, in their entirety, affirming the
Commissioner's decision that Plaintiff was not disabled and , therefore, not entitled to
benefits, under the Social Security Act.
#16, are OVERRULED.
Plaintiff's Objections to said judicial filing , Doc.
Judgment shall enter in favor of the Commissioner and against
The captioned cause is hereby ordered terminated upon the docket records of the
United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division, at Dayton .
March 8, 2017
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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?