United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
NEAL T. HOWLETT, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court upon Plaintiff's Objections
(ECF DKT #17) to the Report and Recommendation (ECF DKT #16)
of Magistrate Judge Jonathan D. Greenberg, who recommends
that the Court affirm the Commissioner's decision denying
Plaintiff's Claim for Period of Disability
(“POD”) and Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) under Titles II and XVI of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423, 1381 et
seq. (“Act”). For the following reasons, the
Court ADOPTS Magistrate Judge Greenberg's Report and
Recommendation and AFFIRMS the Commissioner's denial of
following is a factual synopsis of Plaintiff's claims.
The Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation provides
a more complete and detailed discussion of the facts. For a
complete overview of Plaintiff's medical history, see
Magistrate Judge Greenberg's Report and Recommendation,
which refers to the original Complaint and incorporates all
documents in relation to the dispute.
February 26, 2007, Plaintiff filed an Application for DIB and
Supplemental Security Income. An administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) held a hearing and on January 29, 2010,
the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. After the Appeals
Council denied review, Plaintiff sought review in U.S.
District Court and on September 28, 2012, the decision of the
Commissioner was affirmed. On October 16, 2012, Plaintiff
filed additional applications for POD and DIB alleging a
disability onset date of January 30, 2010. The applications
were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Thereafter,
Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ. On October 23,
2014, an ALJ held a hearing during which Plaintiff and an
impartial vocational expert (“VE”), testified. On
October 29, 2014, the ALJ issued a written decision finding
Plaintiff was not disabled. The ALJ's decision became
final on March 24, 2016, when the Appeals Council declined
24, 2016, Plaintiff filed the instant Complaint challenging
the Commissioner's final decision and asserted a single
assignment of error: whether the ALJ failed to give
appropriate weight to the opinion of Plaintiff's treating
physician, Heather Queen-Williams, M.D. On April 6, 2017, the
Magistrate Judge issued his Report and Recommendation. On
April 19, 2017, Plaintiff filed his Objection to Report and
Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge. On May 3, 2017,
Defendant a filed Response to Plaintiff's Objections.
district court's review of a final administrative
decision of the Commissioner made by an ALJ in a Social
Security action is not de novo. Norman v.
Astrue, 694 F.Supp.2d 738, 740 (N.D. Ohio 2010) report
adopted by 2011 WL 233697 (N.D. Ohio 2011). Rather, a
district court is limited to examining the entire
administrative record to determine if the ALJ applied the
correct legal standards in reaching his decision and if there
is substantial evidence in the record to support his
findings. Id. (citing Longworth v. Commissioner
of Social Security, 402 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir. 2005)).
“Substantial evidence” is evidence that a
reasonable mind would accept to support a conclusion. Id.
(See Richardson v. Perales, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 1427 (1971)).
the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 423(a), eligibility for benefit
payments depends on the existence of a disability.
“Disability” is defined as the “inability
to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of
any medically determinable physical or mental impairment
which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted
or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not
less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(a).
determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the
severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and
404.1526). The ALJ further found that Plaintiff was not under
a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, at any
time from January 30, 2010, the alleged onset date, through
December 31, 2012, the date last insured (20 CFR
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred by failing to give
appropriate weight to Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr.
Queen-Williams. The Magistrate Judge points out that a
treating source opinion must be given “controlling
weight” if such opinion (1) “is well-supported by
medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic
techniques” and (2) “is not inconsistent with the
other substantial evidence in [the] case record.”
Meece v. Barnhart, 2006 WL 2271336 at * 4 (6th Cir.
Aug. 8, 2006); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2). If the ALJ
determines a treating source opinion is not entitled to
controlling weight, “the ALJ must provide ‘good
reasons' for discounting [the opinion], reasons that are
‘sufficiently specific to make clear to any subsequent
reviewers the weight the adjudicator gave to the treating
source's medical opinion and the reasons for that
weight.'” Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 242 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Soc.
Sec. Ruling 96-2p, 1996 SSR LEXIS 9 at * 5). See also
Gayheart, 710 F.3d at 376. The Magistrate Judge
determined that the ALJ provided good reasons for affording
Dr. Queen-Williams' opinion less than controlling weight
because the Doctor's opinion was inconsistent with the
substantial evidence in the record as well as her office
Report and Recommendation the Magistrate Judge shows that the
doctor routinely noted that Plaintiff's appearance was
appropriate; his activity and eye contact was normal; his
demeanor was spontaneous and pleasant; his level of
consciousness was alert; his judgment was fair and his
insight was good, as well as other favorable evaluations. The
doctor noted in a mental impairment questionnaire that
Plaintiff had mild restrictions in daily living activities,
marked difficulties in social functioning and difficulties in
concentration, persistence or pace. However, as the ALJ
noted, Plaintiff was able to engage in numerous social
activities outside the home, attend group yoga classes three
times a week, do odd jobs for pay, work part-time four days a
week as a handy man at a daycare center, volunteer for
Habitat for Humanity, interact daily by text message with
former co-workers, a cousin, his parents and friends, visit
his parents several times a week, visit a friend who owns a
record store and another friend who owns a restaurant, visit
the judge from mental health court and go to school.
thoroughly described this evidence in the opinion and
reasonably concluded that Dr. Queen-Williams' opinion
that Plaintiff had marked or extreme difficulties in
functioning is not borne from the record. The Magistrate
Judge agreed that there were apparent inconsistencies between
Plaintiff's claim that he suffered from extreme
psychological impairment but no restrictions from social or