United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
RHONDA S. MASON, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER
R. ADAMS JUDGE
Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff Rhonda S.
Mason's application for period of disability
(“POD”) and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security
Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423, 1381 et
seq. (“Act”). Plaintiff sought review of the
Commissioner's decision, and the case was referred to
Magistrate Judge Jonathan D. Greenburg for preparation of a
Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) pursuant to
42 U.S.C. §1383(c)(3), 42 U.S.C. §405(g), and Local
Rule 72.2(b)(1). The Magistrate Judge submitted an R&R
that recommends this Court affirm the final decision of the
Commissioner. Doc. 21. Plaintiff filed an objection, and
Defendant filed a response. Docs. 22, 23. For the following
reasons, the Court hereby overrules the objection and ADOPTS
the report and recommendation of the Magistrate Judge.
R&R adequately states the factual and procedural
background of this case. Plaintiff has demonstrated no error
in that background, so the Court will not reiterate those
STANDARD OF REVIEW
magistrate judge submits an R&R, the Court is required to
conduct a de novo review of the portions of the
Report and Recommendation to which an appropriate objection
has been made. 28 U.S.C. §636(b). Objections to the
R&R must be specific, not general, in order to focus the
court's attention upon contentious issues. Howard v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505,
509 (6th Cir. 1991). The Court's review of the
decision is limited to determining whether substantial
evidence, viewing the record as a whole, supports the
findings of the ALJ. Hephner v. Mathews, 574 F.2d
359, 362 (6th Cir. 1978). Substantial evidence is
more than a mere scintilla of evidence but less than a
preponderance. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389,
401 (1971). Substantial evidence is “such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Id. (citing
Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229
(1938); Besaw v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Services, 966 F.2d 1028, 1030 (6th Cir. 1992)
substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision, a
reviewing court must affirm the decision even if it would
decide the matter differently. Cutlip v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286
(6th Cir. 1994) (citing Kinsella v.
Schweiker, 708 F.2d 1058, 1059 (6th Cir.
1983) (per curiam)). Moreover the decision must be affirmed
even if substantial evidence would also support the opposite
conclusion. Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th
Cir. 1986) (en banc). This “standard allows
considerable latitude to administrative decision makers. It
presupposes that there is a zone of choice within which the
decision makers can go either way, without interference by
the courts. An administrative decision is not subject to
reversal merely because substantial evidence would have
supported an opposite decision.” Id. (quoting
Baker v. Heckler, 730 F.2d 1147, 1150 (8th Cir.
1984)). In determining, however, whether substantial evidence
supports the ALJ's findings in the instant matter, the
Court must examine the record as a whole and take into
account what fairly detracts from its weight. Wyatt v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 974 F.2d 680,
683 (6th Cir. 1992). The Court must also consider whether the
Commissioner employed the proper legal standards. Queen
City Home Health Care Co. v. Sullivan, 978 F.2d 236, 243
(6th Cir. 1992).
LAW AND ANALYSIS
the ALJ issued a final decision in May 2017, finding that
Plaintiff was not disabled during the relevant time period
from September 3, 2013 through May 18, 2017. Thus, social
security benefits were denied.
filed an objection, arguing that the ALJ's decision was
not supported by substantial evidence. Doc. 22. Specifically,
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ, and thus the Magistrate Judge,
erred in that the ALJ failed to provide good reasons for
giving less than controlling weight to the August 2015 of Dr.
Kaza, Plaintiff's treating physician. Id.
disagrees, and maintains that the ALJ properly considered Dr.
Kaza's opinion. Doc. 21 (citing Doc. 14, p. 11-13). The
ALJ observed this opinion was inconsistent with Dr.
Kaza's own treatment notes, as well as the other opinion
evidence in the record. Defendant agrees with the ALJ that
the record as a whole paints a less-restrictive picture of
Plaintiff's mental functioning abilities than does Dr.
Kaza's August 2015 opinion.
treating source opinion must be given “controlling
weight” if such opinion (1) “is well-supported by
medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic
techniques” and (2) “is not inconsistent with the
other substantial evidence in [the] case record.”
Gayheart v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 710 F.3d 365,
376 (6th Cir. 2013); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2).
However, “a finding that a treating source medical
opinion …is inconsistent with the other substantial
evidence in the case record means only that the opinion is
not entitled to ‘controlling weight,' not that the
opinion should be rejected.” Blakely v. Comm'r
of Soc. Sec., 581 F.3d 399 (6th Cir. 2009). Indeed,
“[t]reating source medical opinions are still entitled
to deference and must be weighed using all of the factors
provided in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527 and 416.927.”
Blakely, 581 F.3d at 408.
ALJ determines a treating source opinion is not entitled to
controlling weight, “the ALJ must provide ‘good
reasons' for discounting [the opinion], reasons that are
‘sufficiently specific to make clear to any subsequent
reviewers the weight the adjudicator gave to the treating
source's medical opinion and the reasons for that
weight.'” Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 242 (6th Cir. 2007). The Sixth
Circuit has held that the failure to articulate “good
reasons” for discounting a treating physician's
opinion “denotes a lack of substantial evidence, even
where the conclusion of the ALJ may be justified based on the
record.” Rogers, 486 F.3d at 243.
the opinion of a treating physician must be based on
sufficient medical data, and upon detailed clinical and
diagnostic test evidence. See Harris v. Heckler, 756
F.2d 431, 435 (6th Cir. 1985); Bogle v.
Sullivan, 998 F.2d 342, 347, 348 (6th Cir. 1993);
Blakely, 581 F.3d at 406. Moreover, the
“treating physician rule” only applies to medical
opinions. “If the treating physician instead submits an
opinion on an issue reserved to the Commissioner - such as
whether the claimant is disabled, unable to work, the
claimant's RFC, or the application of vocational factors
- [the ALJ's] decision need only ‘explain the
consideration given to the treating source's
opinion.'” Johnson v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 535 Fed. App'x 498, 505 (6th Cir. 2013). The
opinion, however, “is not entitled to any particular
weight.” Turner, 381 Fed. App'x at 493.
See also Curler v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 561 Fed.
App'x 464, 471 (6th Cir. 2014).
an ALJ must consider the findings and opinions of the state
agency medical consultants, because the “Federal or
State agency medical or psychological consultants are highly
qualified and experts in Social Security disability
evaluation.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1513a(b)(1). When
doing so, an ALJ will evaluate the findings using the
relevant factors in §§ 404.1520b, 404.1520c and
404.1527, such as the consultant's medical specialty and
expertise, the supporting evidence in the case record,
consistency of the consultant's opinion with evidence
from other sources in the record, supporting explanations the
medical or psychological consultant provides, and any other
factors relevant to the weighing of the opinions. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1513a(b)(2). Finally, an ALJ must explain in ...