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Stevens v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

March 29, 2018

Timothy J. Stevens, Plaintiff,
Commissioner of Social Security Defendant.



         This matter is before the Court upon the Magistrate Judge's December 1, 2017, Report and Recommendation (“Report”), which recommends that the decision of the Defendant Commissioner be affirmed and this matter be closed on the docket of the Court. (Doc. 16).

         Notice was given to the parties under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b) (Doc. 16, PageID 513). Plaintiff Stevens timely filed objections to the Report on December 15, 2017. (Doc. 17). The Defendant Commissioner responded only to the extent that Plaintiff failed to raise any novel objections. (Doc. 18). This matter is now ripe for review.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In February of 2013, Plaintiff Stevens filed for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) alleging disabilities, which included a back injury and diabetes. (Doc. 16, PageID 490). In the resulting proceedings, only two sources opined on Plaintiff Steven's ability to partake in general work-activities with or without limitation: (1) the state's non-examining physician, Dr. Syd Foster, D.O., and (2) the Plaintiff's nurse practitioner, Barbara Faber. (Doc. 16, PageID 498). Both of these individuals relied on MRI results from 2013 showing signs of mild generative disc disease as well as a mild foraminal stenosis at ¶ 5-S1. (Doc. 16, Page ID 498-99). Based on this MRI and other medical records pre-dating his November 4, 2013 review, Dr. Foster only recommended that Plaintiff be restricted from “climbing/ropes/scaffolds and to avoid concentrated exposure to machinery, heights, and other hazards.” (Id.).

         Nurse Faber began treating the Plaintiff in October of 2012, and typically saw him every three to six months. (Doc. 16, PageID 498-99). On August 11, 2014, Nurse Faber issued her opinion diagnosing the Plaintiff with chronic back pain and lumbar spondylosis with bilateral lower extremity radiculitis. (Id.). Unlike Dr. Foster, Nurse Faber recommended substantial work-limitations, including unscheduled 20-minute breaks every hour, absences from work at least four days each month, and many other physical work-restrictions. (Id.). She also believed that Plaintiff's impairments would mentally interfere with the Plaintiff's ability to concentrate and complete his work. (Id.).

         The ALJ considered the records and ailments that arose during the gap in time following Dr. Foster's review; however, he found that the objective evidence-specifically, the 2013 MRI results-did not support the severe limitations posited by Nurse Faber. (Doc. 16, PageID 501-03). Ultimately, the ALJ gave more weight to the diagnoses and recommendations made by Dr. Foster, and denied Plaintiff's SSI application. (Doc. 16, PageID 490).

         Plaintiff Stevens maintains that the Magistrate Judge's Report was in error for the following reasons: (1) the ALJ erroneously gave “great weight” to the non-examining state agency physician, (2) the ALJ's credibility determination was in error, and (3) the ALJ failed to address all of the medical opinions and evidence in the record when reaching his decision.

         In light of the Plaintiff's objections, it is prudent to reiterate that district court review of objections to a report and recommendation should not be duplicative. Howard v. Sec'y of H.H.S., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991). “Merely restating arguments previously presented, stating a disagreement with a magistrate judge's suggested resolution, or simply summarizing what has been presented before is not a specific objection that alerts the district court to the alleged errors on the part of the magistrate judge.” Renchen v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 29910 at *3-4 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 11, 2015) (citing Howard, 932 F.2d at 508-09).


         When objections are received to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation on a dispositive matter, the district court “must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). Following this review, the district court “may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.” Id.; see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         III. ANALYSIS

         a. The ALJ gave appropriate weight to the non-examining physician.

         Plaintiff objects to the Magistrate Judge's finding that the ALJ did not err in giving “great weight” to the assessment of the non-examining state physician, Dr. Foster. (Doc. 17, PageID 515). Plaintiff offers no new information or arguments, ...

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