United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
BECKY L. MORRIS Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
ALGENON L. MARBLEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Magistrate Judge's
December 10, 2018, Report and Recommendation
(ECF No. 5), which recommended that Plaintiff's Statement
of Errors be OVERRULED and that the decision
of the Commissioner be AFFIRMED. This Court
hereby ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation
in its entirety after consideration of the analysis therein.
applied for disability insurance benefits on September 24,
2014, alleging disability since June 20, 2014. (ECF No. 15 at
1). Her application was initially denied, and then denied
again on reconsideration. (Id.). Following a
hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
issued a decision, concluding that Plaintiff was not disabled
under the meaning of the Social Security Act. (Id.).
The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review, making final the ALJ's decision for purposes of
judicial review. (Id.).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
claims are evaluated by the ALJ pursuant to a five-step
sequential analysis. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520;
see also Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127
F.3d 525, 528-29 (6th Cir. 1997). Where the Appeals Council
denies review, as it did here, the ALJ's decision
represents the final decision of the Commissioner. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). The Social Security Act grants this Court
authority to review a final decision of the Commissioner.
Id. When the Commissioner's factual findings are
supported by substantial evidence in the record, courts must
affirm them. Id. Substantial evidence is defined as
“more than a mere scintilla but less than a
preponderance, [meaning] such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 401 (1971).
the ALJ's decision is not subject to reversal simply
because the evidence could also support another conclusion.
Her v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 203 F.3d 388, 389-90
(6th Cir. 1999). Deference is given to the decision of the
ALJ and “we must defer to an [ALJ's] decision even
if there is substantial evidence in the record that would
have supported an opposite conclusion, so long as substantial
evidence supports the conclusion reached by the ALJ.”
Wright v. Massanari, 321 F.3d 611, 614-15 (6th Cir.
2003). The role of this review is not to “resolve
conflicting evidence in the record or to examine the
credibility of claimant's testimony, ” but instead
to focus on “whether substantial evidence supports the
Commissioner's decision.” Id.
LAW & ANALYSIS
sole objection concerns her physical impairments, claiming
that the ALJ failed to provide good reason regarding how he
determined the weight of the opinions of Dr. Short,
Plaintiff's treating physician. The ALJ correctly
assessed the evidence in the record and reasonably determined
that the opinions of Dr. Short were not entitled to
controlling or deferential weight. (ECF No. 15 at 10). This
Court affirms the ALJ's decision as Plaintiff's
arguments to the contrary are unavailing, the Commissioner
applied the correct legal standards, and the findings of fact
were supported by substantial evidence in the record.
treating physician's opinion is entitled to controlling
weight only if it is well supported by clinical and
laboratory findings and is not inconsistent with the other
substantial evidence of record. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1527(c)(2); see also SSR 96-2p; Combs v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 459 F.3d 640, 652 (6th Cir.
2006). Although Dr. Short's records show diagnoses of
back problems, there were no examination findings or other
evidence in his treatment notes to support his opinions that
Plaintiff would be essentially bedridden. (ECF No. 15 at 12).
See Young v. Sec'y of HHS, 925 F.2d 146, 151
(6th Cir. 1990) (diagnosis of an impairment does not lend
support to a finding of disability). This fact is essential
because Dr. Short primarily treated Plaintiff's mental
impairments-anxiety, depression, and stress-but not her
physical ones. Although Dr. Short was in contact with
Plaintiff's primary pain management specialist, the
record still did not document physical examination findings
or other evidence from the pain management specialist
supporting the extreme limitations enacted by Dr. Short. Dr.
Short's own records did not support the extreme
limitations he enacted and any dispositive information
supplied by Plaintiff's pain management specialist was
not present in Dr. Short's record. Therefore, the
ALJ's decision to not grant controlling weight to Dr.
Short's opinion is supported by substantial evidence in
record also shows that Dr. Short merely refilled
Plaintiff's pain medication but it does not appear that
he ever actually treated Plaintiff's back condition(s).
This suggests Dr. Short's opinions of Plaintiff's
limitations were based on her subjective complaints more than
objective findings. (ECF No. 15 at 13). See Keeler v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 511 Fed.Appx. 472, 473 (6th
Cir. 2013) (supporting an ALJ's decision to give little
weight to a medical opinion when that opinion relied too
heavily on subjective complaints); Poe v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 342 Fed.Appx. 149, 156 (6th Cir. 2009)
(explaining that there was substantial evidence to support
the ALJ's determination that “the opinion [the]
treating physician, was not entitled to deference because it
was based on [claimant's] subjective complaints, rather
than objective medical data.”). Likewise, the noted
reasons for Plaintiff's visits to Dr. Short included:
tearful depression, stress and depression, a progress report
on medications for anxiety and depression, and “to talk
about depression.” (ECF No. 15 at 11). With respect to
her back condition, these notes only reference that Plaintiff
continues to follow up with pain specialist, Dr. Parikh, and
the injections she received from him.
response, Plaintiff argues that if Dr. Short truly was only
treating her mental health conditions, he would not have the
necessary notes or examination documents to prove the need
for the extreme limitations he enacted. She also claims that
Dr. Short functions as more of a supervisory physician and is
still an internal medical doctor, capable of making a
diagnosis from the information known to him. While these are
valid arguments, they do not outweigh the evidence on the
record. The ALJ's decision is supported by substantial
evidence on the record and not subject to reversal even if
reasonable minds could reach a different conclusion.
the ALJ reasonably concluded that the evidence did not
support Dr. Short's finding of disability. This was due
in part to the fact that Plaintiff had benefitted from pain
relief interventions and medication with no significant side
effects. (ECF No. 15 at 10). The mere fact that Plaintiff was
undergoing treatment consistent with someone who experiences
significant pain does not mean that Plaintiff was disabled.
See Young v. Sec'y of HHS, 925 F.2d 146, 151
(6th Cir. 1990) (noting that diagnosis of an impairment does
not lend support to a finding of disability). Although the
precise extent of Plaintiff's improvements is unknown,
Plaintiff's noted impairments are still inconsistent with
a finding of disability. Following certain treatments like
facet injections, radio frequency, ablation, and nerve
blocks, Plaintiff herself noted considerable improvement in
her pain levels. (ECF No. 15 at 10). Spinal injections
likewise improved her back condition and did not create
significant side effects in combination with ...