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Nelson v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

March 28, 2018

Margaret J. Nelson, Plaintiff,
v.
Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          Magistrate Judge, Jolson

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MICHAEL H. WATSON, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         On October 26, 2017, Magistrate Judge Jolson issued a Report and Recommendation ("R&R") recommending the Court overrule Margaret J. Nelson's ("Plaintiff') Statement of Specific Errors and affirm the Commissioner's decision in this social security case. R&R, ECF No. 14. Plaintiff objects to the R&R. Obj., ECF No. 15. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's objections are OVERRULED.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed her application for Period of Disability and Disability Insurance Benefits on March 4, 2013. Her application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"), who, after a hearing, denied Period of Disability and Disability Insurance Benefits to Plaintiff. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request to review the ALJ decision, and Plaintiff thereafter filed suit in this Court.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When a party objects to an R&R within the allotted time, the Court "shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b). Upon review, the Court "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         It is well settled that, when objecting to an R&R, a party must make "specific written objections" to the magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations. Fed R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3). A general statement that the magistrate judge erred does not aid judicial efficiency, the purpose "for which the use of magistrates [was] authorized." Howard v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991); see also Holl v. Potter, No. C-1-09-618, 2011 WL 4337038, at *1 (S.D. Ohio Sept. 15, 2011), aff'd, 506 Fed.Appx. 438 (2012) ("Objections that merely restate arguments raised in the memoranda considered by the Magistrate Judge are not proper, and the Court may consider such repetitive arguments waived.").

         Furthermore, in Social Security cases, the Court's review "is limited to determining whether the Commissioner's decision 'is supported by substantial evidence and was made pursuant to the proper legal standards.'" Ealy v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 594 F.3d 504, 512 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007)). In this context, "[substantial evidence is defined as 'more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance" Rogers, 486 F.3d at 421 (quoting Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994)). Put another way, "[substantial evidence exists when a 'reasonable mind might accept' the relevant evidence 'as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Warner v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 375 F.3d 387, 390 (6th Cir. 2004) (quoting Kirk v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 667 F.2d 524, 535 (6th Cir. 1997)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Objection Regarding the ALJ's Treatment of Dr. Balogh's Opinion

         Plaintiff objects to the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that the ALJ properly evaluated the treating source opinion of Dr. Balogh. Plaintiff contends that the ALJ failed to reasonably account for Dr. Balogh's finding that Plaintiff suffered from impaired attention span and concentration and that she was easily distracted. Plaintiff contends that, in discounting Dr. Balogh's opinion, the ALJ relied heavily on certain portions of Dr. Balogh's treatment notes but gave short shrift to those portions of his treatment notes that supported his opinion. Plaintiff argues, ultimately, that this cursory treatment of portions of Dr. Balogh's notes and his treating source opinion amounted to a failure to weigh the record as a whole.

         The Court declines to consider this objection as it is so vague and cursory that it does not amount to a "specific written objection to the proposed findings and recommendations" as required under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b)(2). For example, the objection states the ALJ "leaned heavily upon certain items in Dr. Balogh's treatment notes" but does not cite to the ALJ decision or Dr. Balogh's treatment notes to identify what those portions were. It then contends conclusorily that the ALJ gave "short shrift" to "the findings most salient to her ability to sustain even simple, routine work activities" but again does not point the Court to any specific portions of Dr. Balogh's treatment notes pertinent to Plaintiffs ability to sustain simple, routine work activities. Without even a single citation to the medical evidence (Dr. Balogh's notes), the ALJ's decision, or the R&R, the Court is unable to thoughtfully consider such an objection.

         Moreover, although the legal basis of the objection itself is vague and difficult to decipher, it appears in any event to be waived. Plaintiff presented three specific arguments regarding the ALJ's treatment of Dr. Balogh's opinion in her Statement of Specific Errors. First, Plaintiff argued that the ALJ's failure to give controlling weight to Dr. Balough's opinion was erroneous because Dr. Balogh's opinion was supported by the evidence in the record and the opinions of the non-examining State agency medical consultants and consultative examiners. Second, Plaintiff argued the ALJ failed to discuss certain required factors when ...


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