United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
CONNIE L. COTTRILL-URMOS, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER
R. ADAMS JUDGE
Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff Connie
Cottrill-Urmos' application for supplemental social
security income (“SSI”) and disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”) under Title II and Title XVI of
the Social Security Act. Plaintiff sought review of the
Commissioner's decision, and the case was referred to
Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Parker for preparation of a Report
and Recommendation (“R&R”) pursuant to 42
U.S.C. §1383(c)(3), 42 U.S.C. §405(g), and Local
Rule 72.2(b)(1). The Magistrate Judge submitted an R&R
that recommends this Court affirm the final decision of the
Commissioner. Doc. 18. Defendant filed objections, and
Plaintiff filed a response. Docs. 19, 20. For the following
reasons, the Court hereby overrules the objection and ADOPTS
the report and recommendation of the Magistrate Judge.
R&R adequately states the factual and procedural
background of this case. Plaintiff has demonstrated no error
in that background, so the Court will not reiterate those
STANDARD OF REVIEW
magistrate judge submits an R&R, the Court is required to
conduct a de novo review of the portions of the
Report and Recommendation to which an appropriate objection
has been made. 28 U.S.C. §636(b). Objections to the
R&R must be specific, not general, in order to focus the
court's attention upon contentious issues. Howard v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505,
509 (6th Cir. 1991). The Court's review of the
decision is limited to determining whether substantial
evidence, viewing the record as a whole, supports the
findings of the ALJ. Hephner v. Mathews, 574 F.2d
359, 362 (6th Cir. 1978). Substantial evidence is
more than a mere scintilla of evidence but less than a
preponderance. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389,
401 (1971). Substantial evidence is “such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Id. (citing
Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229
(1938); Besaw v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Services, 966 F.2d 1028, 1030 (6th Cir. 1992)
substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision, a
reviewing court must affirm the decision even if it would
decide the matter differently. Cutlip v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286
(6th Cir. 1994) (citing Kinsella v.
Schweiker, 708 F.2d 1058, 1059 (6th Cir.
1983) (per curiam)). Moreover the decision must be affirmed
even if substantial evidence would also support the opposite
conclusion. Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th
Cir. 1986) (en banc). This “standard allows
considerable latitude to administrative decision makers. It
presupposes that there is a zone of choice within which the
decision makers can go either way, without interference by
the courts. An administrative decision is not subject to
reversal merely because substantial evidence would have
supported an opposite decision.” Id. (quoting
Baker v. Heckler, 730 F.2d 1147, 1150 (8th Cir.
1984)). In determining, however, whether substantial evidence
supports the ALJ's findings in the instant matter, the
Court must examine the record as a whole and take into
account what fairly detracts from its weight. Wyatt v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 974 F.2d 680,
683 (6th Cir. 1992). The Court must also consider whether the
Commissioner employed the proper legal standards. Queen
City Home Health Care Co. v. Sullivan, 978 F.2d 236, 243
(6th Cir. 1992).
LAW AND ANALYSIS
the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not been under a
disability since May 3, 2007, through the date of the
decision; and therefore, social security benefits were
denied. The Plaintiff filed an objection, arguing that the
ALJ's decision was not supported by substantial evidence.
Doc. 19. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ, and the
thus the Magistrate Judge, erred at Step Three of the
disability evaluation by finding that she did not meet
Listing 1.02. Docs. 14, 18.
the claimant's burden to prove that she meets or
medically equals an impairment in the Listings. Evans v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 820 F.2d 161,
164 (6th Cir. 1987) (per curiam). “For a
claimant to show that this impairment matches a listing, it
must meet all of the specified medical criteria. An
impairment that manifests only some of those criteria, no
matter how severely, does not qualify.” Malone v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 507 F. App'x 470, 472
(6th Cir. 2012) (citing Sullivan v.
Zebley, 493 U.S. 521, 530 (1990)) (emphasis added).
Required medical imaging findings
objection, Plaintiff argues generally that her MRI
“clearly shows joint space narrowing in her
ankles” and that this finding is sufficient to prove
gross anatomical deformity. Doc. 19. The ALJ acknowledged
that Dr. Tucker's accompanying reports for her 2008 and
2009 x-rays showed “perhaps some mild narrowing of the
joint space” and “mild joint space narrowing at
the ankle on the left when compared to the right.” Doc.
18 at 15. However, Dr. Tucker's reports also point out
that the “joint spaces are fairly well
maintained” and there was “definitely no bone on
bone and no severe osteophytes.” He again noted in 2009
that the “joint space is still fairly well
maintained.” Doc. 18 at 15. Plaintiff argues that this
joint space narrowing is sufficient for the Listing. The ALJ
expressly mentioned this piece of evidence and determined
that the Plaintiff did not prove that she met the Listing
requirement when looking overall at the medical reports. Doc.
18 at 16 (citing Tr. 21); see also Elam ex rel.
Golay v. Commr. of Soc. Sec., 348 F.3d 124, 125 (6th
Cir. 2003) (citing Dorton v. Heckler, 789 F.2d 363,
367 (6th Cir.1986)) (“It is insufficient that a
claimant comes close to meeting the requirements of a listed
objection, Plaintiff does not address the remaining aspects
of the medical records, namely that the joint space is well
maintained. Instead, she presents the conclusory statement
the ALJ's analysis was incorrect. Doc. 19. “An
administrative decision is not subject to reversal merely
because substantial evidence would have supported an opposite
decision.” Mullen, 800 F.2d at 545. The ALJ
made a reasonable inference that was supported by Dr.
Tucker's full medical report, and the Plaintiff has not
demonstrated that the ALJ's decision was not supported by
Gross anatomical deformity
next argues that the ALJ improperly found that she did not
meet Listing 1.02's requirement for showing a gross
anatomical deformity. Doc. 19. She argues that the ALJ and
the Magistrate Judge failed to take into account all of the
evidence that was available to support a finding of gross
anatomical deformity, citing: 1) on July 31, 2007 Dr. Tucker
diagnosed the Plaintiff with left ankle arthrosis and flat
feet with posterior tibial tendon insufficient; 2)
Plaintiff's diagnosis was corroborated by the x-rays on
September 24, 2008; 3) Dr. Tucker noted Plaintiff experienced
discomfort with single leg toe raise, a diffuse tenderness
throughout her hind feet and ankles, and admitted sharp ankle
pain, especially during weight ...