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Caywood v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

August 8, 2019

Letha L. Caywood, Plaintiff
v.
Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JEFFREY J. HELMICK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Before me is the Report and Recommendation (“R & R”) of Magistrate Judge James R. Knepp, II. (Doc. No. 17). Judge Knepp recommends I affirm the final decision of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff Letha L. Caywood's applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. (Id.). Caywood filed objections to Judge Knepp's R & R, (Doc. 18), and the Commissioner responded, (Doc. No. 19).

         II. Standard

         A district court must conduct a de novo review of “any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to. The district judge may accept, reject or modify the recommended disposition, receive further evidence, or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3).

         The district judge “must affirm the Commissioner's conclusions absent a determination that the Commissioner has failed to apply the correct legal standards or has made findings of fact unsupported by substantial evidence in the record.” Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “Substantial evidence is defined as ‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'” Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Heston v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 245 F.3d 528, 534 (6th Cir. 2001)). If the Commissioner's findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence, those findings are conclusive. McClanahan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 474 F.3d 830, 833 (6th Cir. 2006).

         III. Discussion

         Caywood states two objections to the R & R. First, she asserts Judge Knepp failed to address whether the ALJ evaluated the required regulatory factors when determining the amount of weight to give to “other” source opinions. In turn, Caywood alleges Judge Knepp erred in concluding the ALJ properly gave “great weight” to the opinion of the State agency psychological and medical consultants.

         Because no “treating source” medical opinion was given controlling weight in this case, the ALJ was required to weigh several factors when determining the weight to assign both medical opinions and opinions from “not acceptable medical sources.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(c) & (f).

         These factors include: the examining relationship, the treatment relationship, supportability of the opinion, the consistency of the opinion with the record as a whole, and the specialization of the opinion's author. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c). With respect to “not acceptable medical source” opinions, though “not every factor for weighing opinion evidence will apply in every case, ” the ALJ

generally should explain the weight given to opinions from these sources or otherwise ensure that the discussion of the evidence in the determination or decision allows a claimant or subsequent reviewer to follow the adjudicator's reasoning, when such opinions may have an effect on the outcome of the case.

20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(f); see also Cruse v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 502 F.3d 532, 541 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing SSR 06-03p, 2006 WL 2329939 (S.S.A.)).

         In this case, there is no dispute that Certified Nurse Specialist (“CNS”) David Bingham and Counselor Marsha Manon are “not acceptable medical sources.” (Doc. No. 18 at 2). As to the opinions of CNS Bingham and Counselor Manon, the ALJ stated only:

In a February 2016 statement, Marsha E. Manon stated the claimant is unable to work (Exhibit 24F/1). She also said the claimant is unable to function in any position that would exert any further stress on her emotionally (Exhibit 24F/2). She also opined the claimant should not have contact with people with whom she is unfamiliar and should avoid workplace stress (Id.). The undersigned gives this statement partial weight because whether a claimant can work is a matter reserved for the Commissioner. Additionally, she has suggested she is ...

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