United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
MICHAEL R. BARRETT, JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the Magistrate Judge's
December 22, 2016 R&R (Doc. 16), which recommends that
the decision of the Commissioner be affirmed in part, and
reversed and remanded in part. Specifically, the Magistrate
Judge recommends that this Court affirm the
Commissioner's denial of Plaintiff's application for
Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), but recommends a remand
for further factfinding on Plaintiff's Social Security
Income (SSI) claim. (Id. at 664).
was given to the parties under Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). On January
5, 2017, Plaintiff moved for an unopposed extension of time
to file objections to the R&R (Doc. 17), which extension
is hereby granted; accordingly, Plaintiff's January 13,
2017 objections (Doc. 18) are deemed timely filed. On January
26, 2017, the Commissioner timely filed a response to the
objections. (Doc. 19).
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
reflected in the R&R, the Magistrate Judge completed a
comprehensive review of the record (Doc. 16, PAGEID# 641-43).
and a summary of the same will not be repeated here. After
the Magistrate Judge filed the R&R, Plaintiff asserted
the following objections:
(1) "The Magistrate Judge erred in finding that the
Administrative Law Judge properly rejected the opinion of Dr.
Joffe, Plaintiff's treating cardiologist, that she was
disabled by her [cardiac] impairment."
(2) The Administrative Law Judge erred in not finding
Plaintiff credible." At the outset, the Court notes that
Plaintiff's second objection is not framed as a
"specific objection" to the Magistrate Judge's
R&R, as required under Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). However, the
Court will consider the objection as challenging the
Magistrate Judge's conclusion that the ALJ's
credibility determination was "supported by substantial
evidence in the record." (Doc. 16, PAGEID# 663).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
party objects to a magistrate judge's report and
recommendation on a dispositive matter, the district judge
"must determine de novo any part of
the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly
objected to." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). After review, the
district judge "may accept, reject, or modify the
recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return
the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions."
Id.; see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
objections do not relate to the Magistrate Judge's
recommendation relating to the SSI application; instead,
Plaintiff focuses on the Magistrate Judge's
recommendation that the Court affirm the Commissioner's
denial of the DIB claim. For the reasons stated below,
Plaintiff's objections are not well-taken.
the Magistrate Judge was correct in finding that the ALJ -
who was confronted with medical experts in disagreement -
gave appropriate weight to the opinions of Dr. Joffe
(Plaintiff's treating physician). Contrary to
Plaintiff's assertion, the ALJ did not "reject"
the opinions of Dr. Joffe; rather, "the ALJ discounted
only some of the functional limitations offered by Dr.
Joffe." (Doc. 655). Regardless, the Commissioner may
reject the opinion of a treating physician: "[t]his
court has consistently stated that the [Commissioner] is not
bound by the treating physician's opinions, and that such
opinions receive great weight only if they are supported by
sufficient clinical findings and are consistent with the
evidence." Combs v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 459
F.3d 640, 652 (6th Cir. 2006) (en banc). In
circumstances where the ALJ declines to give the treating
physician's opinion controlling weight, the ALJ must
provide "good reasons." 20 C.F.R.
§404.1527(0(2). The Commissioner should not be reversed
solely because the Court would reach a different decision on
the same evidence; instead, there is a "zone of
choice" within which the Commissioner may act,
"without the fear of court interference."
Buxton v. Halter, 246 F.3d 762, 772-773 (6th Cir.
Plaintiff essentially argues that the rationale offered by
the ALJ for discounting Dr. Joffe's opinions did not
amount to "good reasons." (Doc. 18, PAGEID# 680)
(citing Blakley v. Com'r of Soc. Sec, 581 F.3d
399, 406-407 (6th Cir. 2009), quoting SSR 96-2p). However,
the Magistrate Judge correctly found that the ALJ's
decision to discount some of Dr. Joffe's conclusions was
well supported in the record. By way of example only, the ALJ
observed that Dr. Joffe's conclusions regarding
Plaintiff's limitations were at times contradictory (Doc.
16, PAGEID# 650) (citing Tr. 485-95; Tr. 45), insufficiently
"supported by medically acceptable clinical and
laboratory standards" (Doc. 16, PAGEID# 651) (citing Tr.
45), and lacking in explanation regarding the "basis for
several opinions!, ]" which were often conclusory in
nature (Doc. 16, PAGEID# 651, 654) (citing White v.
Com'r of Soc. Sec,572 F.3d 272, 286 (6th Cir.
2009)("conclusory statements from physicians are
properly discounted by ALJs"). ...