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Joyner v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

March 29, 2018

JANA JOYNER, Plaintiff,

          Bowman, M.J.



         This matter is before the Court on Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (“Report”) and Plaintiff Jana Joyner's corresponding Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report. (Docs. 9, 10). This action is a Social Security appeal brought under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Magistrate Judge recommended that the ALJ's finding of non-disability be affirmed because it is supported by substantial evidence in the administrative record.

         Notice was given to the parties under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c). Plaintiff filed objections (Doc. 10) to the Magistrate Judge's Report. The Commissioner filed a Reply (Doc. 11) to the Objections.

         The Magistrate Judge provided a comprehensive summary of the record and the same will not be repeated here except to the extent necessary to address Plaintiff's objections. Plaintiff's objections essentially repeat the arguments made in her Statement of Errors, asserting that the ALJ: (1) failed to give controlling weight to Plaintiff's treating physicians; (2) improperly evaluated Plaintiff's mental impairments; (3) improperly evaluated Plaintiff's credibility; and (4) posed a hypothetical question to the Vocational Expert (VE) that provided an incomplete description Plaintiff's impairments. (Doc. 9).

         I. ANALYSIS

         When objections to a magistrate judge's report are received on a dispositive matter, the assigned district judge “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). After review, the district judge “may accept, reject, or modify the recommended decision; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.” Id. See also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         A. Evaluation of opinion evidence

         Dr. Smail concluded that Plaintiff was disabled/unemployable. (Doc. 4, at 17). Paintiff argues that under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1528(c)(2), the findings of Dr. Smail are “reliable indicators” of pain and significant limitations. (Doc. 10; PageID 620). However, the ALJ discounted Dr. Smail's opinion.

         Plaintliff argues that the ALJ failed to give Dr. Smail's opinion the controlling weight it was due under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527. However, Dr. Smail was not accorded controlling weight because Dr. Smail's opinion was not supported by the overall medical record. Blakley v. Commissioner of Social Sec., 581 F.3d 399, 406 (6th Cir.2009) (quoting Wilson v. Commissioner, 378 F.3d 541, 544 (6th Cir.2004). Specifically, Plaintiff's other physicians did not communicate in their evaluations that Plaintiff was disabled or that she had such restrictive work related limitations. (Doc. 9; PageID 608).[1] In one physician's evaluation, Dr. Swedberg noted that Plaintiff was comfortable while sitting, and had “normal range of motion in the cervical spine, and only mildly decreased range of motion in the lumbosacral spine.” (Doc. 4, at 319-25).

         Diagnostic testing and examinations also revealed that Plaintiff had mostly mild to moderate abnormalities, and that Plaintiff possessed normal range of spinal motion, as well as normal gait. Id. Furthermore, as reflected in Dr. Smail's report, Plaintiff's prognosis for her back pain, degenerative disc disease, and radiculopathy was “good, [physical therapy] and testing pending.” (Doc. 4, at 498). Dr. Smail gave no indication that Plaintiff experienced abnormal gait, sensory loss, reflex changes, swelling, muscle spasms, or muscle atrophy. (Doc. 4, at 499).

         Ultimately, the ALJ in the instant case offered good reason to not give Dr. Smail's opinions controlling weight. (Doc. 4, at 17). The limitations offered by Dr. Smail did not comport with the modest level of treatment Plaintiff received for her medical complaints. Id. Ultimately, inconsistency with the overall medical record permits the ALJ to discount the opinion of a treating source. Therefore, in reaching his conclusion, the ALJ properly weighed the opinions of the physicians.

         B. Evaluation of mental impairments

         Plaintiff objects to the ALJ's evaluation of her mental impairments. (Doc. 9; PageID 609-610). Plaintiff argues that the ALJ's assessment, which limited Plaintiff to “unskilled, simple, repetitive tasks, ” failed to properly encompass her mental limitations. (Id. at 609). While Plaintiff alleged that her disability is attributable to her depression, she provided no evidence of any mental health treatment. (Doc. 4, at 18). Although Plaintiff's physicians contend that her depressive symptoms may cause her to have difficulty handling complex work assignments, Plaintiff ...

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