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Carter v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 29, 2014

BOBBY L. CARTER, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.



Plaintiff Bobby L. Carter filed this action on June 27, 2012, seeking review of a final decision by the Commissioner of Social Security, which denied his application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI") (Doc. 2). United States Magistrate Judge Clifford J. Proud issued a Report and Recommendation on February 13, 2014, in which he recommended that this Court affirm the Commissioner's decision to deny Carter's application for benefits (Doc. 31). Carter filed a timely objection to the Report and Recommendation, and the Commissioner filed a response (Doc. 32; Doc. 33). In accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b), this matter is currently before the Court for a de novo review of the portions of the Report and Recommendation to which Carter specifically objected.

In conducting the de novo review, the Court "is not required to conduct another hearing." Goffman v. Gross , 59 F.3d 668, 671 (7th Cir. 1995). The Court need only "give fresh consideration to those issues to which specific objections have been made." See, e.g. , Smith v. Schwartz , Case No. 10-cv-721, 2012 WL 1555116, at *1 (S.D. Ill. Apr. 30, 2012) (citing 12 CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT, ARTHUR R. MILLER & RICHARD L. MARCUS, FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE § 3070.2 (2d ed. 1987 & Supp.2011)). The Court has the discretion to "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); Goffman , 59 F.3d at 671. For the reasons set forth below, Carter's objection to Magistrate Judge Proud's Report and Recommendation is overruled, and the Court adopts the Report and Recommendation in its entirety.


Bobby Carter applied for benefits in January 2009, alleging disability beginning on May 7, 2004. Carter's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration by the Social Security Administration. Carter then requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). After holding an evidentiary hearing, ALJ Gary L. Vanderhoof denied Carter's application for benefits in a decision dated November 19, 2010 (Tr. 26-33). ALJ Vanderhoof determined that Carter had the severe impairments of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), degenerative disc disease, and history of carcinoma of the larynx (Tr. 29). However, none of Carter's impairments met or equaled a listed impairment, and Carter retained the residual functional capacity to perform a wide range of work at the light exertional level (Tr. 30). Based on the testimony of a vocational expert, ALJ Vanderhoof determined that Carter was able to do his past work as an assistant manager of a service station, and therefore, Carter was not disabled (Tr. 32-33).

The Appeals Council denied Carter's request to review ALJ Vanderhoof's adverse decision, and that decision became the final agency decision subject to judicial review (Tr. 5-10). Carter filed a complaint in this Court seeking judicial review of ALJ Vanderhoof's decision (Doc. 2). On judicial review, Carter raised three issues: (1) whether the ALJ properly weighed the opinion of Carter's treating physician; (2) whether the ALJ erred in his assessment of Carter's credibility; and (3) whether the ALJ failed to properly consider the limitations caused by Carter's mental impairments (Doc. 22, p.2). After reviewing the entire administrative record, as well as the briefs from both parties, Magistrate Judge Proud issued his Report and Recommendation and rejected each of Carter's arguments. Magistrate Judge Proud recommended that this Court affirm the Commissioner's decision to deny Carter's application for benefits (Doc. 31). Carter objects to only one portion of the Report and Recommendation: Magistrate Judge Proud's finding that the ALJ did not err in weighing the treating physician's opinion (Doc. 32).


Because Bobby Carter did not object to the factual background as recited by Magistrate Judge Proud in the Report and Recommendation, the Court will not repeat the facts in full. The Court will limit its recitation of the facts to those involving the treating physician's opinion, which are the only facts relevant to this Order.

Bobby Carter was born in July 1959; he was almost 45 years old on the alleged date of onset-May 7, 2004. The parties do not dispute that Bob Thompson, M.D., a family practitioner from Frankfort, Illinois, is Carter's treating physician. Carter began seeing Dr. Thompson in June 2003, and he continued seeing him over the years for a number of ailments, including right hip pain, back pain and muscle spasms, right shoulder pain, weak knees, COPD, chronic bronchitis, head colds, right arm pain, anxiety, and a lump on his neck (Tr. 368, 371-77, 380, 383, 386, 387).

On July 30, 2009, Dr. Thompson completed a Medical Source Statement, in which he gave his opinion about Carter's ability to do work-related physical activities (Tr. 448-53). Dr. Thompson indicated that all of Carter's symptoms and limitations identified in the Medical Source Statement were present since 1997 (Tr. 453).

Dr. Thompson opined that Carter could occasionally lift and carry up to ten pounds (Tr. 448). Carter could sit, stand, and walk at one time without interruption for 30-45 minutes each, and he could sit for ninety minutes total and stand/walk for ninety minutes total in an eight hour work day (Tr. 448-49). The rest of the day Carter would spend resting in bed (Tr. 449). With respect to Carter's use of his hands, Dr. Thompson opined that Carter could only occasionally reach, handle, finger, and feel, but could never push or pull (Tr. 450). Dr. Thompson further opined that Carter could never operate foot controls; climb stairs, ramps, ladders, or scaffolds; or balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl (Tr. 450, 451).

Dr. Thompson said that his opinions were supported by one or more of the following: past MRIs showing degenerative disc disease in the cervical and lumbosacral spine and generalized osteoarthritis; severe body-back pain; xrays showing severe COPD; severe shortness of breath; weakness; and history of pulmonary fibrosis, emphysema, and cancer of the larynx with local metastasis to the lymph nodes in Carter's neck; (Tr. 448, 449).

Dr. Thompson indicated that because of his impairments, Carter could not read ordinary or very small print or view a computer screen (Tr. 451). Carter also cannot determine the differences in shapes and color of small objects such as screws, nuts, or bolts (Tr. 451). Furthermore, Carter has environmental limitations and should never be exposed to unprotected heights, moving mechanical parts, humidity and wetness, pulmonary irritants, extreme cold or heat, or vibrations (Tr. 452).

Dr. Thompson indicated that Carter could shop so long as he did not lift over ten pounds (Tr. 453). Carter could also use public transportation, climb a few stairs at a reasonable pace, prepare a simple meal and feed himself, and care for his own personal hygiene (Tr. 453). He could ambulate without an assistive device, but could not walk a block at a reasonable pace on rough or uneven surfaces (Tr. 453). He also ...

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