United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
LISA K. SNIDER
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Judge Holmes has issued a Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) (Doc. No. 24) in which she recommends
that Lisa K. Snider's Motion for Summary Judgment In
Support of Her Social Security Appeal (Doc. No. 15) be
denied, and that the decision of the Commissioner denying
Snider's claim for Title II Disability Insurance Benefits
be affirmed. Snider has filed an Objection to the R & R
(Doc. No. 25) relating to the treatment the Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) gave to the opinions of Dr.
Robert B. Gatson, Jr., a treating physician. Those same
arguments were the focus of Snider's Motion for Summary
Magistrate Judge Holmes' recommendation, if accepted,
would be case dispositive, the Court's review is de
novo under Rule 72 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. This does not mean, however, that the Court must
“reinvent the wheel” when taking a fresh look at
the matter. Chen v. I.N.S., 87 F.3d 5, 7 (1st Cir.
1996); Franklin v. Anderson, 267 F.Supp.2d 768, 793
(S.D. Ohio 2003). Magistrate Judge Holmes thoroughly analyzed
Snider's claims regarding the discounting of Dr.
Gaston's opinion. Indeed, that was the centerpiece of the
discussion, covering fully 8½ pages of the 15-page
R&R. The Court agrees with that analysis, and simply adds
Gaston issued two reports. The first, a “Medical Source
Statement” form dated September 16, 2016, is of limited
utility because it was only an assessment of Snider's
condition as of that date. The onset of Snider's alleged
disability, however was May 1, 2008 and her insured status
expired on December 30, 2014, almost two years before Dr.
Gatson's initial report. See, Van Winkle v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 29 Fed.Appx. 353, 358 (6th Cir.
2002) (“Evidence relating to a time outside the insured
period is only minimally probative.”); Walton v.
Astrue, 773 F.Supp.2d 742, 750 (N.D. Ohio 2011)
(“Medical evidence dated after a claimant's
expiration of insured status is only relevant to a disability
determination where the evidence “relates back”
to the claimant's limitations prior to the date last
ignoring the discrepancy in dates, Dr. Gaston's initial
report was deficient because he was asked to opine on
Snider's ability to sit, stand and walk, and rest during
a regular eight hour workday. He answered, two hours, one
hour, and two hours respectively. Later in the form, when
asked to recap, his answer was different because he listed
the time as being two hours, one hour, and one hour,
respectively. This could have been simply the result of a
scrivener's error, but no matter how the numbers changed,
neither set of answers adds up to an eight hour work day.
(Doc. No. 13, Administrative Record (“AR”) at
the ALJ did not ignore Dr. Gaston's initial report.
Rather, she summarized the report and chose to discount it,
Although Dr. Gaston is a treating source, his opinion was
given after the date last insured, he did not indicate when
the limitations began, and it is not well supported by
medical findings for the period through the date last insured
as it is inconsistent with generally normal findings on
physical examination such as normal sensation, reflexes,
coordination, muscle strength and tone, [and] normal full
range of motion of all joints. Furthermore, Dr. Gaston noted
that he only sees the claimant every four to six months for
15 to 30 minutes per visit.
(Id. at 41) (internal citations omitted). These
constitute “‘good reasons' for discounting
the opinion of a treating source, ” which are generally
“given controlling weight” if
“well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and
laboratory diagnostic techniques.” Bolton v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 730 Fed.Appx. 334, 337 (6th
Cir. 2018) (citing Gayheart v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 710 F.3d 365, 376 (6th Cir. 2013)).
second report from Dr. Gatson was unmentioned by the ALJ.
This is hardly surprising because Dr. Gatson did not execute
the report until December 1, 2016, almost two weeks after the
administrative hearing. When asked during the hearing if the
record was complete, counsel indicated that a report relating
to a neck surgery would be forthcoming, and the ALJ stated
that the record would be left open for the submission of that
report. (A.R. 51, 70). No. mention was made of a supplemental
report from Dr. Gatson, and the ALJ can hardly be faulted for
not seeing it.
Dr. Gatson's second opinion amounted to nothing more than
a “yes” response to the following two questions
propounded by counsel:
(1) As Lisa Snider's primary care physician for many
years, did the same limitations reflected in your Medical
Source Statement dated 9/7/16 apply to Lisa Snider on
(2) As Lisa Snider's primary care physician for many
years, did the same limitations reflected in your Medical
Source Statement dated 9/7/16 apply to Lisa Snider on 5/1/13?
(A.R. at 1090). Even if the ALJ was aware of this opinion, it
was not reversible error for her not to mention it because a
“check-box analysis” unaccompanied by any
explanation is “‘weak evidence at best” and
is “patently deficient.” Hernandez v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 644 Fed.Appx. 468, 474 (6th
Cir. 2016); see also Ellars v. Comm'r, 647
Fed.Appx. 563, 566 (6th Cir. 2016) (“[A]dministrative
law judges may properly give little weight to a treating
physician's check-off form of functional limitations that
did not cite clinical test results, observations, or other
objective findings.”); Shepard v.
Comm'r, 705 Fed.Appx. 435, 441 (6th Cir. 2017)
(“[T]he ALJ had good reason to discount [the treating
physician's] opinion, ” which “consisted
largely of one word answers, circles, and
the question for the Court is whether substantial evidence
supports the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits,
not whether the ALJ rendered a “perfect opinion”
vis-avis Dr. Gaston's ...