United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division
Lynne E. Halstead, Plaintiff
Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant
G. Carr Sr. U.S. District Judge
a Social Security case in which the plaintiff, Lynne
Halstead, appeals the Commissioner's decision denying her
application for benefits.
administrative law judge determined that plaintiff, though
suffering from severe impairments like cervical-spine
degenerative disc disease, essential tremors, and seizure
disorder, was not “disabled” for purposes of the
applicable Social Security regulations. (Doc. 11 at 21). This
was so, the ALJ found, because plaintiff retained the
residual functional capacity to perform “light work,
” such as working as a carwash attendant, a storage
facility rental clerk, or a routing clerk, and that a
sufficient number of such jobs existed in the national
economy. (Id. at 24-25, 30).
is Magistrate Judge Knepp's Report and Recommendation
(Doc. 18), which recommends that I affirm the
relevant here, the Magistrate Judge concluded that the ALJ
gave good reasons for according only partial weight to the
opinion of plaintiff's treating neurologist, Ahmad
Anouti. (Id. at 12-17). Anouti, who treated
plaintiff for two years, prepared two treatment notes
indicating, without further explanation or elaboration, that
plaintiff “can work parttime [sic], no work at
heights or with heavy machines or under extremes of
temperature or stressful environment.” (Doc. 11 at 508,
511). The ALJ declined to give the opinion controlling weight
because “[t]he medical evidence of record does not
support a restriction to part time employment.”
(Id. at 28). But the ALJ did accept Dr. Anouti's
conclusion that plaintiff could not work at heights, around
machinery, and at fast-paced, stressful production rates.
Judge Knepp found that the ALJ's handling of Dr.
Anouti's opinion provided no basis for overturning the
Magistrate Judge first ruled that Anouti's part-time-work
limitation was not a “medical opinion” at all; it
was, rather, a legal opinion on an issue that was reserved to
the Commissioner. (Doc. 18 at 15-16). In the alternative, the
Magistrate Judge concluded that the ALJ adequately explained
why the record did not support a limitation to part-time
work. (Id. at 17).
has objected to the R&R. (Doc. 20). He argues that the
Magistrate Judge: 1) offered an impermissible post-hoc
rationalization for the ALJ's decision when he concluded
that Dr. Anouti's statement touched on an issue reserved
to the Commissioner; and 2) “glossed over” the
ALJ's failure to provide good reasons for not giving
controlling weight to Dr. Anouti's opinion (id.
undertaken a de novo review of the R&R, I agree that the
ALJ gave good reasons for not crediting Dr. Anouti's
statement that plaintiff could perform only part-time work.
Anouti was a treating source, the ALJ needed to give his
opinion “controlling weight if it [wa]s well-supported
by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic
techniques and [wa]s not inconsistent with the other
substantial evidence in [the] record.” Cole v.
Astrue, 661 F.3d 931, 937 (6th Cir. 2011) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
as was the case here, the ALJ “declines to give a
treating source's opinion controlling weight, he must . .
. balance the following factors to determine what weight to
give it: the length of the treatment relationship and the
frequency of examination, the nature and extent of the
treatment relationship, supportability of the opinion,
consistency of the opinion with the record as a whole, and
specialization of the treating source.” Id.
(internal quotation marks omitted).
the ALJ's key finding - the “good reason”
that the regulations required - was that “[t]he medical
evidence of record does not support a restriction to part
time work.” (Doc. 11 at 28).
finding explained not only why the ALJ did not accord the
opinion controlling weight - Dr. Anouti's opinion was, in
the language of the relevant regulation, “inconsistent
with other substantial evidence in [the] record.”
Cole, supra, 661 F.3d at 937. It also
explained why the ALJ could reasonably afford it only partial
weight. See Id. (ALJ must consider “the
consistency of the opinion with the record as a whole”
in deciding how much weight to afford a treating source's
point, it is worth emphasizing that plaintiff's objection
does not cite a single piece of evidence to support the
part-time limitation that Dr. Anouti imposed. (Doc. 20 at
1-9). That stands in marked contrast to the Magistrate
Judge's thorough recounting of the evidence (Doc. 18 at
17-18) - not to mention the ALJ's own comprehensive
summary (Doc. 11 at 22-28) - that was ...