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Hutcherson v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

September 18, 2019

SHIREEN DUPREE HUTCHERSON PLAINTIFF
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Greg N. Stivers, Chief Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff’s Objection (DN 21) to the Magistrate Judge’s Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Recommendation (“R&R”) (DN 20), and Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment (DN 10). For the reasons outlined below, the objection is OVERRULED and the motion is DENIED.

         I. STATEMENT OF FACTS

         Plaintiff Shireen Dupree Hutcherson (“Hutcherson”) filed an application for Title II Social Security disability insurance benefits on November 15, 2014. (Administrative R. at 176, DN 7-5 [hereinafter R.]). On March 14, 2017, Administrative Law Judge Gloria B. York (“ALJ”) conducted a hearing on Hutcherson’s application. (R. at 53, DN 7-2). Upon consideration of Hutcherson’s claim, the ALJ denied it using the five-step sequential process established by the Social Security Administration (“SSA”). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4); (R. at 21-40, DN 7-2).

         At the first step, the ALJ found that Hutcherson has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 30, 2014, the alleged onset date, and that Hutcherson meets the insured status requirements. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i); (R. at 27, DN 7-2). At the second step, the ALJ determined that Hutcherson has severe impairments, including: fibromyalgia; knee pain status post several surgeries; neck and low back pain with degenerative disc disease; shoulder pain; a bipolar disorder; and a generalized anxiety disorder with a panic disorder. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii); (R. at 27, DN 7-2). At the third step, the ALJ found that Hutcherson does not have any impairment or combination of impairments that meets one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii); (R. at 28, DN 7-2). At the fourth step, the ALJ found that Hutcherson: has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work; can lift and carry ten pounds occasionally; can stand and walk two hours out of an eight-hour day; can sit six hours out of an eight-hour day; can frequently reach overhead; and is limited to routine, repetitive tasks which require only occasional interaction with supervisors and coworkers and no interaction with the general public in a job which is not fast paced. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv); (R. at 30, DN 7-2). For the fifth and final step, the ALJ determined that Hutcherson is capable of performing a significant number of jobs that exist in the national economy. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v); (R. at 33, DN 7-2). Thus, the ALJ determined that Hutcherson “has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from May 30, 2014, through the date of this decision” and did not award benefits. (R. at 34, DN 7-2).

         Hutcherson appealed the ALJ’s decision to the Appeals Council on July 20, 2017, which denied her request for review on February 15, 2018. (R. at 173-75, DN 7-4). Hutcherson then filed the present action on April 13, 2018. (Compl., DN 1). Upon Hutcherson’s motion for summary judgment (Pl.’s Mot. Summ. J., DN 10) the Magistrate Judge issued his R&R, recommending that this Court affirm the ALJ’s decision and deny Hutcherson’s motion for summary judgment. (R&R at 13, DN 20). Hutcherson then objected to the R&R. (Pl.’s Obj., DN 21).

         II. JURISDICTION

         The Court has jurisdiction to examine the record that was before the Commissioner on the date of the Commissioner’s final decision and to enter a judgment, affirming, modifying, or reversing that decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Social security cases may receive different levels of review in federal district courts. The Federal Magistrates Act allows district judges to designate magistrate judges to issue “proposed findings of fact and recommendations for . . . disposition . . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). The magistrate judge then files a recommendation, to which each party may object within fourteen days. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Those parts of the report to which objections are raised are reviewed by the district judge de novo. Id. This differs from the standard applied to the Commissioner of Social Security’s decision, which is reviewed to determine “whether it is supported by substantial evidence and was made pursuant to proper legal standards.” Rogers v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007) (citations omitted).

         Evidence that a “reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion” is substantial evidence. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (internal quotation marks omitted) (citation omitted). It is “more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance . . . .” Rogers, 486 F.3d at 241 (internal quotation marks omitted) (citation omitted). Where substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s decision, a court is obliged to affirm. See Siterlet v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 823 F.2d 918, 920 (6th Cir. 1987) (citation omitted). A court should not attempt to resolve conflicts of evidence or questions or credibility. See Bass v. McMahon, 499 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). The district court may consider any evidence in the record, regardless of whether cited in the ALJ’s decision. See Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545-46 (6th Cir. 1986).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Throughout her objection and motion, Hutcherson appears to generally argue that the ALJ’s opinion is not supported by substantial evidence. The only specific objections Hutcherson makes is that the ALJ failed to properly consider the opinions of three medical professionals in coming to her conclusion. (Pl.’s Obj. 9-15, DN 21; Pl.’s Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 9-13, DN 10-1). Specifically, Hutcherson argues that the ALJ failed to properly consider the opinions of her treating physicians, Dr. Andrea Watson (“Dr. Watson”) and Dr. Mark Smith (“Dr. Smith”), [1] and the examining consultative psychologist, Dr. J. Lorilea Conyer (“Dr. Conyer”).[2]

         A. The ALJ did not err in discounting the opinions of ...


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