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Miller v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division

September 30, 2014

Scott Alan Miller, Plaintiff,
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration[1], Defendant.

ORDER AND OPINION

J. MICHELLE CHILDS, District Judge.

Plaintiff Scott Alan Miller ("Plaintiff") filed this action seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the "Commissioner") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). This matter is before the court for review of the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Kevin F. McDonald, issued in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2)(a) D.S.C. (ECF No. 30.)

The Magistrate Judge recommended affirming the Commissioner's final decision denying Plaintiff's claim for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). ( Id. at 31.) Plaintiff timely filed objections to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation. (ECF No. 32.) For the reasons set forth below, the court ACCEPTS the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge and AFFIRMS the Commissioner's final decision.

I. RELEVANT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

A thorough recitation of the relevant factual and procedural background of this matter is discussed in the Report and Recommendation. (See ECF No. 30 at 6-22.) The court concludes, upon its own careful review of the record, that the Magistrate Judge's factual and procedural summation is accurate and incorporates it by reference. The court will only reference herein facts pertinent to the analysis of Plaintiff's claims.

Plaintiff was born on November 6, 1964 and is presently forty-nine (49) years old. (ECF No. 12-5 at 21.) Plaintiff has a twelfth grade education and past relevant work experience as a handyman and receiving clerk. (ECF No. 13-3 at 15.) He filed an application for DIB on October 16, 2007, alleging disability since August 17, 2006, due to heel fractures, cervical and lumbar spine problems, arthritis, headaches, depression, anxiety, and insomnia. (ECF No. 12-5 at 21; see also ECF No. 12-4 at 24.) Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration on June 6, 2008. (ECF No. 12-4 at 22-24.) Plaintiff then requested an administrative hearing on August 5, 2008. ( Id. at 28.) On August 18, 2009, Plaintiff had a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), who found on March 11, 2010, that Plaintiff was not under a disability as defined by the Social Security Act ("SSA") because he was capable of "making a successful adjustment to other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy." (ECF No. 12-2 at 26, 32.) Thereafter, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on November 18, 2010, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner for purposes of judicial review. ( Id. at 2.)

Subsequently, on January 18, 2011, Plaintiff commenced an action in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) to obtain judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying Plaintiff's claim for DIB. (ECF No. 1 (Docket No. 6:11-cv-00141-JMC).) On March 28, 2012, the court reversed the Commissioner's final decision denying Plaintiff's claim for DIB and remanded the case for further proceedings. (ECF No. 25 (Docket No. 6:11-cv-00141-JMC).)

On remand, the ALJ's decision was vacated and a new hearing was held on June 26, 2012. (ECF No. 13-3 at 18.) Thereafter, on September 18, 2012, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not under a disability as defined by the SSA because he was capable of "making a successful adjustment to other work that existed in significant numbers in the national economy." ( Id. at 16-17.)

On January 16, 2013, Plaintiff commenced a second action in this court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) to obtain judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying Plaintiff's claim for DIB. (ECF No. 1.) On March 11, 2014, the Magistrate Judge issued his recommendation that the Commissioner's final decision denying Plaintiff's claim for DIB be affirmed. (ECF No. 30.) Plaintiff filed timely objections to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation on March 27, 2014. (ECF No. 32.) The Commissioner filed a response to Plaintiff's objections on April 14, 2014. (ECF No. 33.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD AND ANALYSIS

A. The Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation

The magistrate judge makes only a recommendation to this court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The responsibility to make a final determination remains with this court. See Mathews v. Weber , 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The court reviews de novo only those portions of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which specific objections are filed, and reviews those portions which are not objected to - including those portions to which only "general and conclusory" objections have been made - for clear error. Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co. , 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005); Camby v. Davis , 718 F.2d 198, 200 (4th Cir. 1983); Orpiano v. Johnson , 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). The court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the magistrate judge or recommit the matter with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

B. The Court's Standard of Review

The role of the federal judiciary in the administrative scheme established by the Social Security Act is a limited one. Section 405(g) of the Act provides, "the 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 a preponderance." Thomas v. Celebrezze , 331 F.2d 541, 543 (4th Cir. 1964). This standard precludes a de novo review of the factual circumstances that substitutes the court's findings for those of the Commissioner. See Vitek v. Finch , 438 F.2d 1157 (4th Cir. 1971). The court must uphold the Commissioner's decision as long as it is supported by substantial evidence. See Blalock v. Richardson , 483 F.2d 773, 775 (4th Cir. 1972). "From this it does not follow, however, that the findings of the administrative agency are to be mechanically accepted. The statutorily granted right of review contemplates more than an uncritical rubber stamping of the administrative agency." Flack v. Cohen , ...


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