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Nakinishi v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

March 28, 2018

Katrina Nakinishi, Plaintiff,
v.
Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          Vascura Judge

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MICHAEL H. WATSON, JUDGE

         On December 14, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation ("R&R") recommending that the Court overrule Plaintiffs Statement of Errors and affirm the Commissioner's decision. R&R, ECF No. 17. Plaintiff objected to the R&R. ECF No. 18. For the following reasons, the Court OVERRULES Plaintiffs objections, AFFIRMS and ADOPTS the R&R, and DISMISSES Plaintiffs Complaint.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff protectively filed for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and Period of Disability benefits on April 26, 2013, alleging that she had been disabled since March 20, 2007. ALJ Decision, ECF No. 10-2, at PAGEID # 67. After her initial applications were denied, Plaintiff went before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Irma J. Flottman for a hearing. Id. at PAGEID ## 82-110. On September 17, 2015, the ALJ issued an opinion denying Plaintiff benefits. Id. at PAGEID ## 56-71. Following the Appeals Council's denial of her request for review, the ALJ's opinion became final on August 27, 2016. Appeals Council Decision, ECF No. 10-2, at PAGEID ## 51-53.

         Plaintiff subsequently filed a timely Complaint for review in this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Magistrate Judge analyzed Plaintiffs Statement of Errors and recommended the Court affirm the Commissioner's decision. Plaintiff objected to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation.

         Neither party objects to the Magistrate Judge's summary of the facts as set forth in her R&R. R&R 1-15, ECF No. 17. The Court consequently adopts the fact summary and repeats only those facts relevant to the resolution of Plaintiffs objections.

         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'rof Soc. Sec, 594 F.3d 504, 512 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Rogers v. Comm'rof 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'yof 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'rof 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

         Plaintiff objects to the R&R on the basis that the Magistrate Judge failed to adequately address the ALJ's step two determination that Plaintiffs degenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis were not severe. Obj. 2-4, ECF No. 18. Plaintiff goes on to argue that this misclassification at step two was not harmless, as the Magistrate Judge concluded, because the ALJ did not take her conditions into consideration ...


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