United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Cookeville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is the Magistrate Judge's Report and
Recommendation (“R&R”) (Doc. No. 21)
recommending that Mullin's Motion for Judgment on the
Record (Doc. No. 15) be denied. Mullin has filed objections
to the R&R, to which the Commissioner has responded.
(See Doc. Nos. 22, 23.) For the reasons stated
below, Mullin's objections to the R&R will be
overruled, and the Magistrate Judge's R&R will be
approved and adopted.
Factual and Procedural Background
filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) on March 13, 2015. (Doc. No. 21 at 2.) He
alleged a disability onset date of March 31, 2012.
(Id.) Mullin asserted that he was unable to work
because of fibromyalgia, Parsonage-Turner syndrome,
tendonitis, costochondritis, muscle spasms, insomnia, high
blood pressure, myopathy, back and shoulder pain, chest pain,
vertigo, depression, and anxiety. (Id.)
applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration.
(Id.) Pursuant to his request for a hearing before
an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), he appeared
with counsel and testified at a hearing before ALJ K. Dickson
Grissom on June 14, 2017. (Id.) The ALJ denied the
claim on January 16, 2018. (Id.) The Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's
decision on May 10, 2018, thereby making the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
(Id.) This civil action was thereafter timely filed,
and, at the request of the Court, Mullin filed a Motion for
Judgment on the Record. (Doc. Nos. 1, 15.)
essentially argued that the ALJ committed reversible error by
improperly considering the limited effects of his alleged
pain and fatigue. (Doc. No. 16 at 22.) In her R&R, the
Magistrate Judge notes that the ALJ found that the objective
medical evidence supported a finding that Mullin suffered
from multiple severe impairments that significantly limited
his ability to perform basic activities, including muscle
spasms, left shoulder pain, upper chest pain, and arthritis.
(Doc. No. 21 at 9.) However, the Magistrate Judge noted that
the ALJ also concluded that Mullin's complaints were not
consistent with the objective medical evidence.
(Id.) Mullin challenged this finding, arguing that
two separate physicians prescribed him pain medication,
however, the Magistrate Judge explained that based on the
record developed and considered by the ALJ: (1) it was
apparent that Mullis did not comply with his medication
regiment; (2) he used illegal substances while on the
prescription medication regiment; and (3) he unilaterally
increased his pain prescription dosage at various point.
(Id.) These actions supported an adverse credibility
finding against Mullin. (Id.) Moreover, Mullin held
employment during the period of claimed disability and
engaged in an active lifestyle, which the ALJ properly
considered when evaluating Mullin's complaints of
disabling pain. (Id. at 10.) Finally, there was
countervailing medical evidence, including normal imaging
studies and other reports, revealing that Mullin had only
mild impairments. (Id. at 11.) Given the record
before the ALJ, the Magistrate Judge concluded that the
ALJ's adverse credibility determination against Mullin
and ultimate denial of Mullin's applications were
supported by substantial evidence. (Id. at 11-12.)
objects to the Magistrate Judge's R&R, particularly
her conclusion that the ALJ appropriately evaluated his
reports of pain and fatigue. (Doc. No. 22.) He argues that
the Magistrate erred when she found that he only rarely
complained of pain and fatigue to his providers.
(Id. at 1.) He then lists multiple instances in
which he complained to various physicians about pain and
fatigue. (Id. at 1-2.) He argues that, given these
complaints, the Magistrate Judge's R&R should be
rejected. (Id. at 3.) The Commissioner's
response contends that the ALJ's decision was supported
by substantial evidence, the Magistrate Judge thoroughly and
accurately reviewed this evidence, and, therefore, the
R&R should be adopted. (Doc. No. 23.)
Standard of Review
Court's standard of review for a magistrate judge's
R&R depends upon whether a party files objections. If a
party objects to portions of the Report and Recommendation,
the Court reviews those portions de novo. 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1) (C); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). De novo
review in these circumstances requires at least a review of
the evidence before the magistrate judge; the Court may not
act solely on the basis of a magistrate judge's R&R.
See Hill v. Duriron Co., 656 F.2d 1208, 1215 (6th
Cir. 1981); see also 12 Wright, Miller & Marcus,
Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil 2d § 3070.2
(1997). After reviewing the evidence, the Court “may
accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings
or recommendations” of the magistrate judge. 28 U.S.C.
is limited to determining whether the Commissioner's
decision is supported by substantial evidence and was made
pursuant to proper legal standards. Cole v. Astrue,
661 F.3d 931, 937 (6th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks
omitted). Substantial evidence is “such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Heston v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 245 F.3d 528, 534 (6th Cir. 2001) (internal
quotation marks omitted). “The substantial evidence
standard . . . presupposes that there is a zone of choice
within which the decisionmakers can go either way, without
interference by the courts.” Blakley v. Comm'r
of Soc. Sec., 581 F.3d 399, 406 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986)).
Thus, the Court must affirm the Commissioner's decision
if it is based on substantial evidence, even if there is
substantial evidence that would also have supported an
opposite conclusion. Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d
727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007).
the Court has reviewed the substance of Mullin's
objections-particularly his argument that the ALJ and
Magistrate Judge erred in finding that he only rarely
complained of pain and fatigue-and determines that those
arguments have no basis in the record. In short, the ALJ
conducted a hearing, discussed medical and testimonial
evidence, including Mullin's multiple complaints of pain
and fatigue, explained the weight given to the medical and
vocational evidence, and addressed Mullin's complaints in
the context of all the circumstances. (See Doc. No.
the Court is satisfied that: (1) substantial evidence
supported the ALJ's adverse credibility determination and
finding that Mullin's allegations of disability were not
established by the record; and (2) the Magistrate Judge
carefully and adequately reviewed those findings. It is
therefore inappropriate to disturb the ALJ's conclusions.
Accordingly, Mullins's objections are
OVERRULED and the Report and Recommendation
(Doc. No. 21) is APPROVED AND ADOPTED. The
Motion for Judgment on the Record (Doc. No. 15) is
DENIED and the ...