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Davidson v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division

March 23, 2018

James A. Davidson, Plaintiff
v.
Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant

          ORDER

          James G. Carr Sr., U.S. District Judge

         This is a Social Security case in which the plaintiff, James Davidson, appeals from the Commissioner's decision denying him benefits.

         An administrative law judge determined that Davidson suffered from multiple severe impairments, including a depressive disorder. (Doc. 10 at 20). But the ALJ concluded that Davidson had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform sedentary work, provided that the work involved only: 1) oral, rather than written, instructions; 2) no fast-paced production schedule; and 3) “simple, routine, repetitive tasks involving only simple work related decisions and few if any workplace changes.” (Id. at 23).

         Pending is Magistrate Judge Ruiz's Report and Recommendation, which recommends that I affirm the Commissioner's decision. (Doc. 14).

         The Magistrate Judge rejected Davidson's argument that the ALJ erred when he afforded “great weight” to the opinion of a state agency psychologist, Jennifer Swain, but, without explanation, failed to incorporate two of her proposed limitations into the RFC. (Id. at 11-14).

         Dr. Swain had concluded that, because Davidson was “moderately limited” in his ability to remember and execute detailed instructions, Davidson would be “best suited for work involving simple and moderately complex tasks that are presented verbally or demonstrated.” (Doc. 10 at 121). She also opined that Davidson was “moderately limited” in terms of his ability “to complete a normal workday and workweek without interruptions from psychologically based symptoms and to perform at a consistent pace without an unreasonable number and length of rest periods.” (Id. at 122).

         According to Dr. Swain:

[Davidson's] depression may interfere with his ability to complete a normal workday/workweek.
He can sustain work in a setting where there is some flexibility allowed as to the scheduling of breaks and the pacing of tasks.

(Id.).

         The ALJ gave “great weight” to Dr. Swain's opinion (id. at 31), and he incorporated several of the limitations she identified into Davidson's RFC. For example, he limited Davidson to performing “simple, routine, repetitive tasks, ” in a work environment that was not fast-paced and involved few, if any, changes. (Id.).

         But the ALJ did not acknowledge Dr. Swain's findings regarding Davidson's limited ability to complete a workday and workweek or his need for flexible breaks. (Id.). Nor did the ALJ explain the apparent inconsistency between giving Dr. Swain's opinion “great weight” across the board and failing to include those limitations.

         The Magistrate Judge concluded that the ALJ's handling of Dr. Swain's opinion did not warrant reversal. It was sufficient, the Magistrate Judge found, that the ALJ “considered Dr. Swain's opinion, adopted in part the proposed limitation concerning pace, and implicitly adopted the proposed limitation concerning flexibility of breaks.” (Doc. 14 at 13).

         Davidson has filed an objection (Doc. 15), and, on de novo review of the R&R, see 28 U.S.C. ยง 636(b)(1), I will sustain the objection, vacate the ...


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