United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
REBECCA GRADY JENNINGS, DISTRICT JUDGE
Shannon Marie Kerr (“Kerr”) filed this action
seeking review of the denial of disability insurance benefits
by Defendant Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”). [DE 1]. The Court referred
Kerr's action to Magistrate Judge H. Brent Brennenstuhl
(“Magistrate Judge”). [DE 11]. After Kerr filed a
motion for summary judgment, the Magistrate Judge issued
Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Recommendation
(“R&R”) that the Commissioner's decision
be affirmed. [DE 14]. Kerr objected, arguing that the
Magistrate Judge incorrectly found that Administrative Law
Judge Roger L. Reynolds's (“ALJ”) failure to
articulate “good reasons” was harmless error. [DE
15 at 713] (“It is submitted that the finding of
harmless error by the Magistrate Judge regarding the
Administrative Law Judge's failure to sufficiently
articulate good reasons for discounting the treating
physicians' opinions in this case is error”). The
Commissioner responded [DE 16]. This matter is ripe. For the
reasons below, the Court OVERRULES Kerr's Objections [DE
15], and ACCEPTS the Magistrate Judge's R&R without
modification [DE 14].
applied for disability insurance benefits (DIB) in November,
2014, alleging that she has been disabled since August, 2014.
[DE 8-2 at 49]. After the Commissioner denied her claim both
initially and upon reconsideration, Kerr appeared before the
ALJ. Id. at 49. The ALJ ruled against Kerr and
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2020.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since August 20, 2014, the alleged onset date (20
CFR 404.1571 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
obesity; migraine headaches; seizure disorder; chronic neck
and low back pain status post C5-6 discectomy and fusion, and
L5/S1 discectomy and fusion; chronic fatigue syndrome;
diverticulosis; history of kidney stones; bilateral carpel
tunnel syndrome; adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and
depressive symptoms (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform less than the Full Range of
sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a). The
claimant can occasionally lift/carry up to 10 pounds,
frequently less than 10 pounds; requires a sit/stand option
with no prolonged standing or walking in excess of thirty
minutes without interruption, no sitting in excess of one
hour without interruption; no climbing of ropes, ladders or
scaffolds, occasional climbing of stairs or ramps, occasional
balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching or crawling, no
aerobic activities such as running or jumping, no work with
hands over the head; no operations of foot pedal controls; no
exposure to concentrated temperature extremes, excess
humidity, concentrated vibration or industrial hazards; no
commercial driving and no work at heights; requires entry
level work with simple repetitive procedures, can tolerate
only occasional changes in work routines, and should work in
an object oriented environment with only occasional and
casual contact with coworkers, supervisors or the general
Id. at 51-53 (emphasis added).
the Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's decision
in February, 2018, the ALJ's decision became the final
decision of the Commissioner. [DE 12 at 671]; Clore v.
Astrue, No. 1:08CV77-J, 2009 WL 1010875, at *2 (W.D. Ky.
Apr. 14, 2009) (citing Cotton v. Secretary, 2 F.3d
692, 696 (6th Cir., 1993)). Kerr brought this action to
obtain judicial review of the Commissioner's decision.
[DE 1 at 2]. After reviewing the record and relevant law, the
Magistrate Judge found that the ALJ erred by not adequately
explaining the weight he gave to Kerr's treating
physician's opinions, but that the error was harmless.
[DE 14 at 710]. The Magistrate Judge therefore recommended
that the Court affirm the Commissioner's decision, deny
Kerr's motion for summary judgment, and dismiss
Kerr's complaint. [DE 14]. Kerr objects. [DE 15].
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), a district court may
“designate a magistrate judge to conduct hearings,
including evidentiary hearings, and to submit to a judge of
the court proposed findings of facts and recommendations for
the disposition” of matters including review of the
Commissioner's final decision on disability insurance
benefits. This Court must “make a de novo determination
of those portions of the report or specific proposed findings
or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). After reviewing the evidence, the
Court may accept, reject, or modify the proposed findings or
recommendations of the magistrate. Id.
review of the Commissioner's final decision is limited to
determining whether the findings are supported by substantial
evidence and whether the Commissioner employed the proper
legal standards in reaching her conclusion. Brainard v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.,889 F.2d 679,
681 (6th Cir. 1989) (citing Richardson v. Perales,402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). “Substantial evidence is
more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a
preponderance and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Id. (citing Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305
U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). “The substantial-evidence
standard allows considerable latitude to administration
decision makers. It presupposes that there is a zone of
choice within which the decision makers can go either way,
without interferences by the courts.” Mackins v.
Astrue,655 F.Supp.2d 770, 775 (W.D. Ky. 2009) (quoting
Mullen v. Secretary,800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir.,
1986)). The ALJ need not discuss every aspect of the record
or explain every finding at length but must “articulate
with specificity reasons for the findings and conclusions
that he or she makes” to facilitate meaningful judicial
review. Bailey v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No.
98-3061, 1999 WL 96920, at *4 (6th Cir. Feb. ...