United States District Court, D. South Carolina
RICHARD MARK GERGEL, District Judge.
Plaintiff brought this action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to obtain relief from the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying him disability insurance benefits under the Social Security Act. In accord with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 DSC, this matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for pretrial handling. The Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation ("R & R") on June 27, 2014, recommending that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed. (Dkt. No. 40). Plaintiff thereafter timely filed objections to the Magistrate Judge's R & R. (Dkt. No. 52).
The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the R & R to which specific objection has been made, and may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
The role of the federal judiciary in the administrative scheme of the Social Security Act is a limited one. Section 405(g) of the Act provides that "[t]he findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). "Substantial evidence has been defined innumerable times as more than a scintilla, but less than preponderance." Thomas v. Celebrezze, 331 F.2d 541, 543 (4th Cir. 1964). This standard precludes de novo review of factual circumstances that substitutes the Court's findings for those of the Commissioner. Vitek v. Finch, 438 F.2d 1157 (4th Cir. 1971).
Although the federal court's review role is limited, "it does not follow, however, that the findings of the administrative agency are mechanically accepted. The statutorily granted right of review contemplates more than an uncritical rubber stamping of the administrative action." Flack v. Cohen, 413 F.2d 278, 279 (4th Cir. 1969). "[T]he courts must not abdicate their responsibility to give careful scrutiny to the whole record to assure that there is a sound foundation for the [Commissioner's] findings." Vitek, 438 F.2d at 1157-58.
The Court has reviewed the voluminous objections of Plaintiff, which essentially reargue every finding of the Commissioner perceived by Plaintiff to be adverse to his disability claim and every sentence in the R & R supportive of the recommendation that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed. Plaintiff does not appear to appreciate that the weighing of the competing evidence in a Social Security Disability claim is initially the responsibility of the Administrative Law Judge and that review of the Commissioner's decision by the Court is subject to a substantial evidence standard and to a determination that the proper legal standards were applied by the Commissioner. After a review of the R & R, the administrative record, the decision of the Administrative Law Judge, and the applicable legal standards, the Court finds that the Magistrate Judge ably summarized the factual and legal issues in this matter, properly found that substantial evidence in the record supported ...