United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga
S. MATTICE, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
February 13, 2017, United States Magistrate Judge Christopher
H. Steger filed his Report and Recommendation, (Doc. 17),
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 72(b). Magistrate Judge Steger recommended
that (1) Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings, (Doc. 12), be denied; (2) Defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgment, (Doc. 14), be granted; and (3) the
decision of the Commissioner be affirmed. (Doc. 17 at 1).
has filed timely objections to the Magistrate Judge's
Report and Recommendation. (Doc. 18). Therein, Plaintiff, for
the most part, reiterates arguments from her Motion for
Judgment on the Pleadings regarding the Administrative Law
Judge's allegedly improper weighing of the medical
opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician. (Id.
at 4-10). The Court has conducted a review of the Report and
Recommendation, as well as the record, and it agrees with
magistrate Judge Steger's well-reasoned conclusions for
the reasons stated herein. Accordingly, the Court will ACCEPT
and ADOPT Magistrate Judge Steger's Report and
Recommendation, (Doc. 17), Plaintiff's Motion for
Judgment on the Pleadings, (Doc. 12), will be DENIED,
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. 14), will
be GRANTED and the Commissioner's decision will be
filed an application for disability insurance benefits on
August 17, 2011, alleging a disability onset date of July 31,
2008 “due to chronic pain, fatigue, and cognitive
defects - all symptoms caused by her fibromyalgia.”
(Doc. 13 at 1). After conducting a hearing on April 8, 2014,
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Jeannie S.
Bartlett denied Plaintiff's application, finding that she
was “capable of performing a reduced range of sedentary
work.” (Id. at 2). After the ALJ's
decision became final, Plaintiff appealed to this Court on
December 16, 2015. Pursuant to a standing order of the court,
this matter was referred to Magistrate Judge Steger to issue
a Report and Recommendation.
Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, (Docs.
12, 13), Plaintiff argued that (1) “[t]he ALJ erred in
assigning only ‘minimal weight' to the opinion of
treating specialist, Dr. Eugene Huffstutter, choosing to rely
on the opinions of non-examining Agency physicians
instead;” and (2) “[t]he ALJ's Decision errs
by finding Plaintiff's subjective pain complaints not
credible due solely to her reported daily
activities.” (Doc. 13 at 2). On February 13, 2017,
Magistrate Judge Steger issued a thorough Report and
Recommendation rejecting Plaintiff's arguments and
finding that the ALJ's decision was supported by
substantial evidence in the record. (Doc. 17 at 16- 17).
Plaintiff filed timely objections to the Report and
Recommendation on February 27, 2017. (Doc. 18). Defendant has
filed a response to Plaintiff's Objections, (Doc. 19),
and this matter is now ripe for review.
raises two broad objections, the upshot of which is that the
ALJ erred in assigning “little weight” to Dr.
Huffstutter's opinion. Plaintiff believes that because
Dr. Huffstutter was her treating physician, the ALJ should
have afforded more weight to his finding that she was
disabled. (Doc. 18 at 4-8). More specifically, she claims
that “[t]he ALJ's stated reasons for rejecting Dr.
Huffstutter's opinion are erroneous, ” and that
“[t]he ALJ erred in preferring the opinion of a
physician who did not examine Ms. Stearns, did not have
access to all the relevant medical evidence, and who is not a
specialist in the relevant medical condition.”
(Id. at 4).
makes several sub-arguments within these objections, which
can be grouped into two categories. The first category of
objections consists of arguments that have already been
presented to, and rejected by, the Magistrate Judge. First,
Plaintiff sets forth the standard for the “treating
physician rule, ” which states that “the opinion
of a treating physician is entitled to substantial deference
. . . if it is supported by sufficient medical data, ”
and is not inconsistent with other substantial evidence in
the record. Shelman v. Heckler, 821 F.2d 316, 320-21
(6th Cir. 1987); see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527.
Second, she argues that the ALJ mischaracterized
Plaintiff's reported daily activities, and that the ALJ
impermissibly found that her ability to engage in certain
activities meant that she was capable of performing sedentary
work. (Doc. 18 at 7). Third, she argues that the ALJ erred in
finding that Dr. Huffstutter's opinion was internally
inconsistent. (Id. at 7-8). Fourth, she claims that
the ALJ should not have credited the opinion of a state
agency non-examining medical consultant. (Id. at
8-9). Finally, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ should have
given more credit to Dr. Huffstutter's opinion than that
of the state agency non-examining consultant because Dr.
Huffstutter is a specialist in the field of rheumatology.
(Id. at 9-10).
these arguments, however, are not properly before the Court,
as they are merely restated from Plaintiff's Motion for
Judgment on the Pleadings and Plaintiff's response in
opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.
(Compare Doc. 13 and Doc. 16 with Doc. 18);
see also VanDiver v. Martin, 304 F.Supp.2d 934, 937
(E.D. Mich. 2004) (“A general objection, or one that
merely restates the arguments previously presented is not
sufficient to alert the court to alleged errors on the part
of the magistrate judge. 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.”). This deficiency is underscored by the fact
that Plaintiff's objections repeatedly discuss errors
made by the ALJ, rather than errors made by the Magistrate
Judge in his Report and Recommendation. (See
generally Doc. 18). Because Plaintiff's restated
arguments outlined above are not proper objections within the
context of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 72(b), they will be OVERRULED.
second category of objections suffers from the opposite
problem-they were never raised before Magistrate Judge
Steger. First, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in
discrediting Dr. Huffstutter's opinion because it was not
supported by objective medical evidence. Fibromyalgia,
Plaintiff argues, “cannot be confirmed by objective
tests.” (Doc. 18 at 6); see also Preston v.
Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 854 F.2d 815,
817-18 (6th Cir. 1988) (“In stark contrast to the
unremitting pain of which fibrositis patients complain,
physical examinations will usually yield normal results-a
full range of motion, no joint swelling, as well as normal
muscle strength and neurological reactions.”). Second,
Plaintiff claims that the ALJ erred in crediting the opinion
of the state agency non-examining consultant because she did
not have access to all of Plaintiff's medical records.
(Doc. 18 at 9).
their merit, the Court cannot consider these arguments, as
they were never raised before the Magistrate Judge.
Accordingly, these objections are deemed waived. Murr v.
United States, 200 F.3d 895, 902 n.1 (6th Cir. 2000)
(“Courts have held that while the Magistrate Judge Act,
28 U.S.C. § 631 et seq., permits de
novo review by the district court if timely objections
are filed, absent compelling reasons, it does not allow
parties to raise at the district court stage new arguments or
issues that were not presented to the magistrate. Hence,
Petitioner's failure to raise this claim before the
magistrate constitutes waiver.”) (citations omitted).
Because Plaintiff has failed to provide the Court with any
reason, let alone compelling reasons, that her arguments
should be considered for the first time by the District
Court, these waived objections will be OVERRULED. See
United States v. Waters, 158 F.3d 933, 936 (6th Cir.
these procedural shortcomings, the Court has conducted a
review of the record, and it agrees with Magistrate Judge
Steger's conclusion that the ALJ's decision to
discredit Dr. Huffstutter's opinion was supported by