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Webb v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

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

December 9, 2019




         Before the Court is the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Kathleen B. Burke (Doc. No. 19 [“R&R”]) with respect to plaintiff's complaint for judicial review of defendant's denial of her applications for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) and Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). Plaintiff Jessica Webb (“Webb”) filed objections to the R&R (Doc. No. 20 [“Obj.”]) and defendant filed a response to the objections (Doc. No. 21 [“Resp.”][1]). Upon de novo review and for the reasons set forth below, the Court hereby overrules plaintiff's objections, accepts the R&R, and dismisses this case.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Webb protectively filed applications for SSI and DIB on January 17, 2016, alleging a disability onset date of February 28, 2015, based on severe anxiety, alcoholism/addiction, panic attacks, fear of public/isolation, shaking most of the day and night, insomnia, lightning jolts in her body, fear of phones ringing, depression, and rapid speech/stuttering/mind blanking out. (Doc. No. 12 (Transcript [“Tr.”]) at 92, 157.)

         After Webb's applications were denied initially (id. at 276-79; 280-83) and upon reconsideration (id. at 286-88; 289-90), she requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) (id. at 294-95). The hearing was conducted on December 8, 2017. Webb appeared and was represented by counsel; a vocational expert (“VA”) also appeared. The hearing transcript is in the record. (Id. at 112-54.) On April 9, 2018, the ALJ issued his decision, determining that Webb was not disabled under the Social Security Act (the “Act”). (Id. at 89-105.) Webb requested review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council, which denied her request on November 13, 2018, rendering the ALJ's decision final. (Id. at 76-78.)

         Webb timely filed the instant action seeking judicial review. Represented by counsel, Webb filed a brief on the merits (Doc. No. 14 [“Pl. Br.”]), defendant filed a response brief on the merits (Doc. No. 17 [“Def. Br.”]), and Webb filed a reply (Doc. No. 18 [“Reply”]).

         On October 21, 2019, Magistrate Judge Burke issued her R&R, recommending that defendant's decision be affirmed because substantial evidence supported the ALJ's finding of no disability.


         A. Standard of Review

         This Court's review of the Magistrate Judge's R&R is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), which requires a de novo decision as to those portions of the R&R to which objection is made. “An ‘objection' that does nothing more than state a disagreement with a magistrate's suggested resolution, or simply summarizes what has been presented before, is not an ‘objection' as that term is used in this context.” Aldrich v. Bock, 327 F.Supp.2d 743, 747 (E.D. Mich. 2004); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3) (“[t]he district judge must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to[]”); Local Rule 72.3(b) (any objecting party shall file “written objections which shall specifically identify the portions of the proposed findings, recommendations, or report to which objection is made and the basis for such objections[]”).

         Judicial review is limited to a determination of whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards and whether there is “substantial evidence” in the record as a whole to support the decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Longworth v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 402 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir. 2005). “Substantial evidence is defined as ‘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.'” Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994)). If there is substantial evidence to support the defendant's decision, it must be affirmed even if the reviewing court might have resolved any issues of fact differently and even if the record could also support a decision in plaintiff's favor. Crisp v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 790 F.2d 450, 453 n.4 (6th Cir. 1986); Buxton v. Halter, 246 F.3d 762, 772 (6th Cir. 2001) (“The findings of the Commissioner are not subject to reversal merely because there exists in the record substantial evidence to support a different conclusion.”) (citations omitted).

         B. Analysis

         1. Objection 1 - Failure to Support Weight Given Treating Physician

         Plaintiff's first objection relates to the R&R's analysis of the weight given to various physicians by the ALJ.

         “Treating-source opinions must be given ‘controlling weight' if two conditions are met: (1) the opinion is well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques; and (2) the opinion 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) (internal quotes and citation omitted). In addition, the physician must have had an “ongoing relationship” with the claimant ...

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