United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
JOHN E. GRIFFIN PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
N. STIVERS, CHIEF JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Objection (DN
20) to the Magistrate Judge's Findings of Fact,
Conclusions of Law and Recommendation (“R&R”)
determining that the Commissioner's findings were
supported by substantial evidence. (DN 19). For the reasons
stated below, Plaintiff's Objection is OVERRULED.
November 14, 2014, Plaintiff John Griffin
(“Griffin”) filed an application for Disability
Insurance Benefits. (Administrative R. 26, DN 10-2). Griffin
alleged that he became disabled as a result of impairments to
his back and knees. (Administrative R. 26). Administrative
Law Judge Teresa A. Kroenecke conducted a hearing on December
7, 2016, in Louisville, Kentucky. (Administrative R. 43).
Also present was Linda L. Jones, who testified as a
vocational expert. (Administrative R. 43). The ALJ determined
that Griffin is capable of performing his past work as an
electronics technician and thus denied his claim because he
does not suffer from a disability as defined in the relevant
part of the Social Security Act. (Administrative R. 35-36).
Griffin timely a request for the Appeals Council to review
the ALJ's decision, but the Appeals Council denied that
request. (Administrative R. 1-5).
filed his Complaint (DN 1) against the Commissioner on
September 6, 2017, contending that the ALJ did not consider
whether his Level 1 obesity is a severe impairment despite
uncontradicted evidence showing that he had been obese for
over 12 months. (Pl.'s Fact & Law Summ. 1-2, DN 13).
Griffin argues this omission became reversible error at
subsequent steps in the analysis because the ALJ failed to
consider the combined effects of his Level 1 obesity on his
musculoskeletal impairments in her fourth, fifth, sixth, and
seventh findings. (Pl.'s Fact & Law Summ. 2-11).
R&R, the Magistrate Judge concluded that it was
unnecessary to decide whether the ALJ erred by failing to
find that Plaintiff's obesity is a severe impairment
because that error alone was insufficient to reverse and
remand the final decision of the Commissioner. (R&R 7).
The Magistrate Judge stated that, “[g]enerally, so long
as an [ALJ] finds that other impairments are severe,
continues on with the sequential evaluation process, and
considers all of a claimant's impairments in the
remaining steps, the error is considered harmless.”
(R&R 7). Regarding his failed appeal, the Magistrate
Judge determined that “the Court is jurisdictionally
limited to reviewing the decision of the ALJ, not the Appeals
Council.” (R&R 18).
now objects to the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that
“it does not appear that evidence existed in the record
regarding Plaintiff's obesity that the ALJ should have
considered at steps three and four.” (Pl.'s Obj. 1,
DN 20). Griffin also objects to the conclusion that he
“failed to put obesity at issue in the administrative
proceedings by failing to specifically list it in his
application or specifically raise it at any point. (Pl.'s
Obj. 1). Finally, Griffin “objects to the Court's
refusal to review the Appeals Council's decision not to
consider new evidence furnished post hearing.”
(Pl.'s Obj. 6).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court reviews de novo the portions of the R&R to which
objections have been filed, and the Court may accept, reject,
modify the R&R, in whole or in part. See 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). While specific objections are
entitled to de novo review, “poorly drafted objections,
general objections, or objections that require a judge's
interpretation should be afforded no effect and are
insufficient to preserve the right of appeal.”
Bardwell v. Colvin, No. 5:15-CV-00196-GNS-LLK, 2017
WL 5885378, at *1 (W.D. Ky. Jan. 31, 2017) (internal
quotation marks omitted) (citation omitted). As the Sixth
Circuit has noted, “a general objection to a
[magistrate judge's] report, which fails to specify the
issues of contention, does not satisfy the requirement that
an objection be filed. The objections must be clear enough to
enable the district court to discern those issues that are
dispositive and contentious.” Miller v.
Currie, 50 F.3d 373, 380 (6th Cir. 1995) (citation
Social Security Act authorizes payment of Disability
Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income to
persons with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq.
The term “disability” is defined to include an
“[i]nability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or
which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous
period of not less than twelve (12) months . . . . ” 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
Commissioner has promulgated regulations setting forth a
five-step sequential evaluation process for evaluating
disability claims. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. The
Commissioner's five steps, in summary, proceeds as
(i) Is the claimant engaged in substantial gainful activity?
(ii) Does the claimant have an impairment or combination of
impairments that significantly limits his or her ability to