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Alloway v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

March 28, 2018

Teresa D. Alloway, Plaintiff,
v.
Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          Magistrate Judge, Jolson

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MICHAEL H. WATSON, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         On September 1, 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. 13. Plaintiff objected to the R&R, and the Commissioner responded. ECF Nos. 14 and 15. 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 on July 15, 2015, alleging that she had been disabled since September 14, 2012. R&R 1, ECF No. 13. After her initial applications were denied, Plaintiff went before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Thomas Wang for a hearing. ALJ Decision, ECF No. 9, at PAGEID # 59. On November 25, 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 19, 2016. Appeals Council Decision, ECF No. 9, at PAGEID ##38-41.

         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 1-8, ECF No. 13. 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'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

         Plaintiff objects to the Magistrate Judge's decision on the basis that the R&R failed to adequately consider the ALJ's disregard of Plaintiffs treating physician Phillip Short, M.D. Upon de novo review of the evidence, the Court finds the Magistrate Judge did not err.

         When evaluating medical opinion evidence in a Social Security case, "the ALJ is bound by the so-called 'treating physician rule, ' which generally requires the ALJ to give greater deference to the opinions of treating physicians than to the opinions of non-treating physicians." Friend v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec,375 Fed.Appx. 543, 550 (6th Cir. 2010). The Commissioner is required to give a treating physician's opinion controlling weight if the opinion is "well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent with the other substantial evidence ...." 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2). If the treating physician's opinion is not given controlling weight, then the Commissioner must offer "good reasons" as to the weight given instead. Id. at ยง 404.1527(c)(2). "These reasons must be 'supported by the evidence in the case record, and must be sufficiently specific to make clear to any subsequent reviewers the weight the adjudicator gave to the ...


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