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Dunlap v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville

March 6, 2018

BRAD H. DUNLAP, Plaintiff,

          Magistrate Judge Poplin



         On January 19, 2018, the United States Magistrate Judge assigned to this case filed a Report and Recommendation (Doc. 22) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b). The Magistrate Judge recommended that: (1) Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 14) be denied; (2) Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 18) be granted; and (3) the decision of the Commissioner be affirmed. (Doc. 22 at 23).

         Plaintiff filed timely objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (Doc. 23). He presents a wide array of arguments, including: (1) that the medical opinion of Dr. Redmon, Plaintiff's treating physician, regarding the nature and extent of Plaintiff's pain should have resulted in a finding of disability; (2) that Dr. Redmon's opinion that Plaintiff could not perform full-time work was well-supported and should have been afforded greater weight; (3) that the ALJ improperly relied on the opinion of Dr. Hunt, who did not examine all of Plaintiff's medical records and “misread” Plaintiff's MRI; (4) the ALJ improperly denied Plaintiff's subpoena request as to Dr. Hunt; (5) the ALJ and Magistrate Judge failed to analyze the impact and side effects of Plaintiff's pain medication; (6) the Magistrate improperly relied on the Sixth Circuit's decision of a prior social security appeal filed by Plaintiff; and (7) the Magistrate Judge improperly concluded that the report from Dr. Maccree was not a medical opinion. (Doc. 23). The Court reviews Plaintiff's objections de novo. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(3).

         The Court has conducted a review of the Report and Recommendation, as well as the record, and it agrees with the Magistrate Judge's well-reasoned conclusions for the reasons stated herein.

         I. ANALYSIS

         A. Opinion of Dr. Redmon Regarding Plaintiff's Pain

         As outlined above, Plaintiff's treating physician Dr. Redmon opined: “[Plaintiff] has a medical condition, confirmed by MRI and EMG/NCV that could reasonably be expected to produce severe pain.” (Doc. 13-4 at 71). According to Plaintiff, if he has a medical condition confirmed by objective medical evidence that may reasonably be expected to produce severe pain, he must be found disabled. (Doc. 23 at 2). Plaintiff cites Duncan v. Secretary, 801 F.2d 847, 853 (6th Cir. 1986), in support of this argument.

         While Plaintiff's recitation of the rule set forth in Duncan is correct, its application to the facts of this case do not warrant a finding that he is disabled. The Magistrate Judge addressed the ALJ's consideration of Dr. Redmon's opinion in this respect, and concluded that Dr. Redmon's conclusions regarding the severity of Plaintiff's pain did not find support in the record as a whole. (Doc. 22 at 13-14). As explained by the Magistrate Judge, Redmon's own treatment notes revealed that Plaintiff's pain improved significantly in response to oral medication and injections. See Burney v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 2013 WL 1289310, at *3 (E.D. Mich. Mar. 28, 2013) (citing Pasco v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 137 Fed. App'x. 828, 836 (6th Cir. 2005)) (“Notably, impairments that are controlled by medication are not disabling.”). He also noted that Plaintiff “appeared in no acute distress, his symptoms were stable, and his gait improved.” (Doc. 22 at 13-14). Duncan does not stand for the proposition that any evidence indicating a condition causing severe pain, no matter how contradictory or unsupported, commands a finding of disability. Rather, courts must look to the objective medical evidence contained in the record as a whole, which is exactly what occurred in this case. Thus, Plaintiff's objection will be OVERRULED.

         B. Opinion of Dr. Redmon Regarding Plaintiff's Ability to Work

          Plaintiff's argues that a second opinion of Dr. Redmon should have resulted in a finding of disability. Specifically, Dr. Redmon opined: “[Plaintiff]'s medical conditions prevent him from performing any type of full time work.” (Doc. 13-4 at 71). Plaintiff presented an identical argument to the Magistrate Judge, who analyzed it fully and found it was without merit. (Doc. 22 at 6-15). These arguments are not properly before the Court, and Plaintiff's objections in this respect will be OVERRULED. See 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.”).

         C. Weight Afforded to Dr. Hunt's Findings

          Plaintiff also objects to the Magistrate Judge's finding that the ALJ properly relied upon the medical opinion of Dr. Hunt. According to Plaintiff, Dr. Hunt did not examine Plaintiff's medical records or review the report of his treating physician Dr. Redmon. (Doc. 23 at 3-4). In addition, Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Hunt's conclusions regarding his MRI are incorrect, as Dr. Hunt concluded that Plaintiff had “minimal left neural foraminal narrowing” while another report in the record characterized the narrowing as “marked.” (Docs. 23 at 3; 13-2 at 115; 13-4 at 72).

         Plaintiff's arguments regarding the medical records Dr. Hunt failed to review are without merit. The record reflects that Dr. Hunt took a medical history from Plaintiff, conducted a physical examination, and analyzed a recent MRI. (Doc. 13-2 at 114-116). These are factors that courts should consider when evaluating medical opinions from non-treating sources. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(C)(1), (3)-(6). Plaintiff cites no ...

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