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Chapman v. Saul

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio

August 12, 2019

Beverly Chapman, Plaintiff,
v.
Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security [1] Defendants.

          James R. Knepp Magistrate Judge.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          PAMELA A. BARKER U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the Objection of Plaintiff Beverly Chapman (“Plaintiff” or “Chapman”) to the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge James R. Knepp regarding Plaintiff's request for judicial review of Defendant Commissioner of the Social Security Administration's (“Defendant” or “Commissioner”) denial of her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act. (Doc. No. 21 .)

         For the reasons that follow, the Report & Recommendation (“R&R”) is ADOPTED IN PART and REJECTED IN PART, as follows. The Court declines to adopt the R&R insofar as it deems waived Plaintiff's argument that the RFC was not supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ failed to accommodate the opinions of Drs. Flowers and Hill that Plaintiff had a limited ability to perform multi-step tasks. In all other respects, the R&R is adopted.

         I. Background

         In May 2015, Plaintiff filed her application for DIB, alleging a disability onset date of July 3, 2012. (Doc. No. 12 (Transcript [“Tr.”]) at 15.) The applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration, and Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (Id.) On May 17, 2017, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified. (Id.) A vocational expert (“VE”) also testified. (Id.) On October 4, 2017, the ALJ found Plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr. 15-30.) The Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's decision, and the ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final decision. Plaintiff seeks judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c). (Doc. No. 1.)

         The case was referred to the Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Rule 72.2(b)(1) for a Report and Recommendation. The R & R concludes that the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence and recommends that the decision be affirmed. (Doc. No. 20.) Plaintiff filed an Objection to the R & R, to which the Commissioner responded. (Doc. Nos. 21, 22.)

         Plaintiff raises one objection to the R & R, i.e., that the Magistrate Judge erred in finding that Plaintiff waived her argument with respect to the ALJ's assessment of the medical opinions of state agency psychological consultants Drs. Flowers and Hill. (Doc. No. 21.) The Court has conducted a de novo review of the issues raised in Plaintiff's Objections.

         II. Analysis

         A. Standard of Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), “[a] judge of 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)(C); see Powell v. United States, 37 F.3d 1499 (Table), 1994 WL 532926 at *1 (6th Cir. Sept. 30, 1994) (“Any report and recommendation by a magistrate judge that is dispositive of a claim or defense of a party shall be subject to de novo review by the district court in light of specific objections filed by any party.”) (citations omitted); Orr v. Kelly, 2015 WL 5316216 at *2 (N.D. Ohio Sept. 11, 2015) (citing Powell, 1994 WL 532926 at *1). See also Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3). “A judge of 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).

         Under the Social Security Act, a disability renders the claimant unable to engage in substantial gainful activity because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that can result in death or that can last at least twelve months. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a). The impairment must prevent the claimant from doing the claimant's previous work, as well as any other work which exists in significant numbers in the region where the individual lives or in several regions of the country. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A). Consideration of disability claims follows a five-step review process.[2] 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520.

         The Court's review of the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits is limited to determining whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards and whether the findings are supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “Substantial evidence is ‘more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'” McGlothin v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 299 Fed.Appx. 516, 521 (6th Cir. 2008) (quoting Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007) (internal citation omitted)).

         If substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's finding that the claimant is not disabled, that finding must be affirmed even if the reviewing court would decide the matter differently. Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994) (citation omitted). A reviewing court is not permitted to resolve conflicts in evidence or to decide questions of credibility. Bass v. McMahon, 499 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). Moreover, the Commissioner's decision must be affirmed even if substantial evidence also exists in the ...


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