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Turner v. Colvin

United States District Court, District of South Carolina, Greenville Division

February 23, 2015

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



This matter is before the court on Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett’s Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) that this court reverse and remand Acting Commissioner of Social Security Carolyn Colvin’s decision denying plaintiff’s application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income (“SSI”). The Commissioner filed objections to the R&R. For the reasons set forth below, the court rejects the R&R and affirms the Commissioner’s decision.


Unless otherwise noted, the following background is drawn from the R&R.

A. Procedural History

Plaintiff Matthew P. Turner (“Turner”) filed an application for DIB and SSI on November 16, 2010, alleging disability beginning on June 1, 2008. The Social Security Agency denied Turner’s claim initially and on reconsideration. Turner requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), and ALJ Ann G. Paschall held a hearing on June 21, 2012. The ALJ issued a decision on August 28, 2012, finding Turner not disabled under the Social Security Act. Turner requested Appeals Council review of the ALJ’s decision. The Appeals Council declined to review the decision, rendering the ALJ’s decision the final action of the Commissioner.

On January 27, 2014, Turner filed this action seeking review of the ALJ’s decision. The magistrate judge issued an R&R on December 4, 2014, recommending that this court reverse and remand the ALJ’s decision. The Commissioner filed objections to the R&R on December 22, 2014 and Turner responded to the Commissioner’s objections on January 9, 2015. The matter is now ripe for the court’s review.

B. Medical History

Because Turner’s medical history is not relevant to the disposition of this case, the court dispenses with a lengthy recitation thereof and instead notes a few relevant facts. Turner was born on October 7, 1978, and was 29 years old on the alleged onset date. Turner received a high school diploma and attended various post-secondary schools, although he was unsuccessful in these pursuits. Turner has past relevant work experience as a dishwasher and custodian, among other jobs.

C. ALJ’s Decision

The ALJ employed the statutorily-required five-step sequential evaluation process to determine whether Turner was disabled from June 1, 2008 through August 28, 2012. The ALJ first determined that Turner had not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the relevant time period. Tr. 17. At the second step, the ALJ found that Turner suffered from the following severe impairments: depression, social anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, personality disorder with schizoid features, and poor short term memory. Id. at 18. At step three, the ALJ determined that Turner’s impairments did not meet or equal one of the listed impairments in the Agency’s Listing of Impairments (“the Listings”). Id.; see 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpt. P, App’x 1. Before reaching the fourth step, the ALJ determined that Turner had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels with the following nonexertional limitations: “perform simple, repetitive, and routine tasks with corresponding instructions; perform work at a relatively slow (non-production) pace; and have minimal contact with the general public.” Tr. 22. The ALJ found, at step four, that Turner was unable to perform any of his past relevant work. Tr. 26. Finally, at step five, the ALJ determined that considering Turner’s age, education, work experience and RFC, he could perform jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy, and therefore concluded that he was not disabled during the period at issue. Tr. 27-28.


This court is charged with conducting a de novo review of any portion of the magistrate judge’s R&R to which specific, written objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). A party’s failure to object is accepted as agreement with the conclusions of the magistrate judge. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149-50 (1985). The recommendation of the magistrate judge carries no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination rests with this court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976).

Judicial review of the Commissioner’s final decision regarding disability benefits “is limited to determining whether the findings of the [Commissioner] are supported by substantial evidence and whether the correct law was applied.” Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). Substantial evidence is “more than a mere scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less than a preponderance.” Id. (internal citations omitted). “[I]t is not within the province of a reviewing court to determine the weight of the evidence, nor is it the court’s function to substitute its judgment for that of the [Commissioner] if his decision is supported by substantial evidence.” Id. Where conflicting evidence “allows reasonable minds to differ as to ...

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