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Rollins v. Berryhill

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

June 20, 2019

JENNIFER L. ROLLINS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          WEHRMAN MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM L. CAMPBELL, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Jennifer Rollins brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), seeking judicial review of the Social Security Administration's (“SSA”) denial of her application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act.

         On February 28, 2019, the magistrate judge issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) (Doc. No. 16), recommending that the Court deny Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record. Plaintiff filed timely objections (Doc. No. 17), to which the Commissioner has responded (Doc. No. 21). For the reasons discussed herein, the Objections are OVERRULED, the R&R is ADOPTED, Plaintiff's Motion for Judgement Based on the Administrative Record is DENIED.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff Jennifer Rollins filed an application for disability insurance benefits on September 15, 2014, alleging that she had been disabled since October 1, 2013, due to back and neck pain, arthritis, depression, and anxiety. (Administrative Transcript (“TR”), Doc. No. 10.) Plaintiff's application was denied initially (TR 69-70) and upon reconsideration (TR 103-04). Plaintiff subsequently requested and received a hearing. (TR 41.) Following a hearing on November 15, 2016, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Donald E. Garrison issued an unfavorable decision on February 1, 2017. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for a review of the ALJ's decision. Therefore, the ALJ's decision stands as the final determination of the Commissioner.

         The ALJ determined that Plaintiff is not disabled under sections 216(i) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act. (TR 26.) The ALJ found that although Plaintiff suffers from lumbar and cervical degenerative disc disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, obesity, and panic disorder, she has residual functional capacity to perform light work with some limitations. (TR 23-24.) The ALJ found that there are jobs Plaintiff can perform existing in the national economy in significant numbers. (TR 25-26.)

         Plaintiff filed a Complaint initiating this action on March 2, 2018. (Doc. No. 1.) The Commissioner filed an Answer (Doc. No. 9) denying liability, and a complete copy of the Administrative Record (Doc. No. 10). On June 8, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Judgment Based on the Administrative Record and a supporting memorandum. (Doc. Nos. 13 and 14.) The Commissioner filed a Response (Doc. No. 15).

         Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ failed to consider properly the opinions of treating and examining sources and improperly discounted Plaintiff's credibility. The magistrate judge issued an R&R, recommending the Court deny Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the record and affirm the decision of the ALJ. (Doc. No. 16.) The magistrate judge found the ALJ had properly considered the opinions of treating and examining sources and adequately explained the weight given to their opinions; and found the ALJ made an appropriate determination of Plaintiff's credibility. (Id.)

         Now before the Court are Plaintiff's Objections to the R&R (Doc. No. 17) and the Commissioner's Response to Plaintiff's Objections (Doc. No. 21).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The district court reviews de novo any portion of a report and recommendation to which a specific objection is made. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(1)(C); Local Rule 72.02; 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); United States v. Curtis, 237 F.3d 598, 603 (6th Cir. 2001). General or conclusory objections are insufficient. See Zimmerman v. Cason, 354 Fed.Appx. 228, 230 (6th Cir. 2009). Thus, “only those specific objections to the magistrate's report made to the district court will be preserved for appellate review.” Id. (quoting Smith v. Detroit Fed'n of Teachers, 829 F.2d 1370, 1373 (6th Cir. 1987)). In conducting the review, the court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3).

         In Social Security cases, the Commissioner determines whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act and, as such, entitled to benefits. 42 U.S.C. § 405(h). The Court's review of the decision of the ALJ is limited to a determination of whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards and whether the findings of the ALJ are supported by substantial evidence. Miller v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 811 F.3d 825, 833 (6th Cir. 2016) (quoting Blakley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 581 F.3d 399, 405 (6th Cir. 2009)); see 28 U.S.C. § 405(g) (“The findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive.”). The substantial evidence standard is met if a “reasonable mind might accept the relevant evidence as adequate to support a conclusion.” Warner v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 375 F.3d 387, 390 (6th Cir. 2004) (internal citations omitted). “The substantial evidence standard … presupposes that there is a zone of choice within which the decision makers can go either way, without interference by the courts.” Blakley, 581 F.3d at 406 (quoting Mullen v. ...


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