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Martin v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

January 2, 2020

Alex Martin, 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 Thomas M. Parker. (Doc. No. 16). Judge Parker recommends I affirm the final decision of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff Alex Martin's applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. (Id.). Martin 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, and hearing no objection to these sections by Martin, I hereby incorporate and adopt, in full, the “Procedural History” and “Evidence” sections set forth in the R & R. (Doc. No. 16 at 1-21).

         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).

         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

         Martin objects to the R & R on two grounds. First, he contends Judge Parker erred in finding the ALJ properly evaluated the weight given to certain medical opinions. Second, Martin disputes Judge Parker's finding that the ALJ properly evaluated Martin's subjective symptoms.

         A. Treating Physician Rule

         When assessing a claim, the ALJ must evaluate every medical opinion received. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(c), 416.927(c). “Medical opinions are statements from acceptable medical sources that reflect judgments about the nature and severity of [the claimant's] impairment(s), including [their] symptoms, diagnosis and prognosis, what [they] can still do despite impairment(s), and [their] physical or mental restrictions.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(a)(1), 416.927(a)(1).

         A treating source medical opinion is given controlling weight unless it is not “well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques” or is “inconsistent with the other substantial evidence in [the] case record.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(c)(2), 416.927(c)(2). “If the ALJ does not accord controlling weight to a treating physician, the ALJ must still determine how much weight is appropriate by considering a number of factors, including the length of the treatment relationship and the frequency of examination, the nature and extent of the treatment relationship, supportability of the opinion, consistency of the opinion with the record as a whole, and any specialization of the treating physician.” Blakely v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 581 F.3d 399, 406 (6th Cir. 2009); see also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(c)(2)-(6), 416.927(c)(2)-(6). “The ALJ need not perform an exhaustive, step-by-step analysis of each factor; she need only provide ‘good reasons' for both her decision not to afford the physician's opinion controlling weight and for her ultimate weighing of the opinion.” Biestek v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 880 F.3d 778, 785 (6th Cir. 2017); see also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(c)(2), 416.927(c)(2).

         The “good reasons” “requirement is not simply a formality; it is to safeguard the claimant's procedural rights.” Cole v Astrue, 661 F.3d 931, 937 (6th Cir. 2011). “[A]n ALJ's ‘failure to follow the procedural requirement of identifying the reasons for discounting the opinions and for explaining precisely how those reasons affected the weight' given ‘denotes a lack of substantial evidence, even where the conclusion of the ALJ may be justified based upon the ...


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