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Pingle v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

August 26, 2019

Tammy A. Pingle, Plaintiff
Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant



         I. Introduction

         Before me is the Report and Recommendation (“R & R”) of Magistrate Judge Jonathan D. Greenberg. (Doc. No. 16). Judge Greenberg recommends I affirm the final decision of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff Tammy A. Pingle's applications for Period of Disability and Disability Insurance Benefits. (Id.). Pingle filed objections to the R & R, (Doc. No. 17), and the Commissioner filed a response, (Doc. No. 18).

         II. Background

         After reviewing the R & R, I hereby incorporate and adopt, in full, the “Procedural History” and “Evidence” sections set forth in the R & R, as there were no objections to these sections by Pingle. (Doc. No. 16 at 1-18).

         III. 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).

         A general objection that does not “address specific concerns with the magistrate's report” will not suffice. Howard v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(2) (“[A] party may serve and file specific written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations.”) (emphasis added). Allowing such general objections would frustrate the purpose of Magistrate Judges Act and “be an inefficient use of judicial resources.” Howard, 932 F.3d at 509.

         When reviewing those non-general objections, 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).

         IV. Discussion

         In this case, Pingle cites no error by Judge Greenberg in her second objection. (Doc. No. 17 at 4-5). Since this is not an appeal of the R & R for my review, the general objection must be overruled.

         As for the second objection, Pingle asserts Judge Greenberg “mischaracterized” the issue in upholding the ALJ's decision to give the state agency physicians' opinions “great weight.” (Id. at 2). Pingle asserts her objection was not to the weight given to the opinion but instead the ALJ's failure to properly explain the deviations from these opinions given “great weight.” (Id.). Judge Greenberg addressed this argument in his R & R, stating that the ALJ was not required to “‘explain why he did not adopt all of [the] limitations.'” (Doc. No. 16 at 48 (quoting Hedick v. Berryhill, 2018 WL 6348759, *6 (N.D. Ohio Nov.14, 2018), report and recommendation adopted by 2018 WL 6344611 (N.D. Ohio Dec. 4, 2018))). I agree with this statement generally. But because of Pingle's regrettably inartful argument in the merits brief, (Doc. No. 11 at 18-19), I find this statement alone does not address Pingle's overarching challenge to the ALJ's decision. Essentially, Pingle disputes not the ALJ's decision not to adopt the state physicians' opinions wholesale, but the ALJ's failure to properly consider all medical evidence in rendering the Residual Functioning Capacity (“RFC”) decision.

         As stated by Judge Greenberg in the R & R,

“In rendering his RFC decision, the ALJ must give some indication of the evidence upon which he is relying, and he may not ignore evidence that does not support his decision, especially when that evidence, if accepted, would change his analysis.” Fleischer v. Astrue, 774 F.Supp.2d 875, 880 (N.D. Ohio 2011) (citing Bryan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 383 Fed.Appx. 140, 148 (3d Cir. 2010) (“The ALJ has an obligation to ‘consider all evidence before him' when he ‘mak[es] a residual functional capacity determination,' and must also ‘mention or refute [...] contradictory, objective medical evidence” presented to him.”)). See also SSR 96-8p, at *7, 1996 SSR LEXIS 5, *20 (“The RFC assessment must ...

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