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King v. Colvin

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

March 24, 2015

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


DAVID C. NORTON, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on Magistrate Judge Kevin F. McDonald's Report and Recommendation ("R&R") that this court affirm Acting Commissioner of Social Security Carolyn Colvin's decision denying plaintiff's application for supplemental security income ("SSI"). Plaintiff Eric Devoy King ("King") filed objections to the R&R. For the reasons set forth below, the court adopts the R&R and affirms the Commissioner's decision.


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

A. Procedural History

King received SSI as a child. As required by law, when King turned 18 his eligibility for these benefits was redetermined under the rules for determining disability in adults. On January 1, 2011, the Social Security Agency determined that King was no longer disabled as of that date. This determination was upheld on reconsideration after a hearing by a state agency disability hearing officer. King requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"), and ALJ Kelly Wilson held a hearing on November 9, 2012. The ALJ issued a decision on December 20, 2012, finding King not disabled under the Social Security Act. King 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 August 2, 2013, King filed this action seeking review of the ALJ's decision. The magistrate judge issued an R&R on October 15, 2014, recommending that this court affirm the ALJ's decision. King filed objections to the R&R on November 3, 2014 and the Commissioner filed a response on November 19, 2014. The matter is now ripe for the court's review.

B. Medical History

The court adopts the magistrate judge's thorough discussion of King's medical history and only notes a few relevant facts here. King was born on October 20, 1992 and was 20 years old when the ALJ issued her decision. King completed ninth grade and has no past relevant work experience.

C. ALJ's Decision

The ALJ employed the statutorily-required five-step sequential evaluation process to determine whether King was disabled from January 1, 2011 through December 20, 2012. It is undisputed that King did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the relevant time period. At the second step, the ALJ found that King suffered from the following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus, gastritis, gastro-esophageal reflux disease, lactose intolerance, asthma, hypertension, obesity, dysmetabolic disorder, depression, learning disorder, and anxiety. Tr. 19. At step three, the ALJ determined that King's impairments did not meet or equal one of the listed impairments in the Agency's Listing of Impairments ("the Listings"). Tr. 20; see 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpt. P, App'x 1. Before reaching the fourth step, the ALJ determined that King had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(c), except that King: must avoid concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dusts and gases; can perform simple tasks, but no detailed or complex tasks; can have superficial contact with the public, but should not perform customer service, sales, or counter work; and would work best in an environment that does not require him to meet high production standards. Tr. 22. The ALJ found, at step four, that King has no past relevant work. Tr. 27. Finally, at step five, the ALJ determined that considering King's age, education, work experience and RFC, he could perform jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy, and therefore concluded that King's disability ended on January 1, 2011 and that King has not become disabled again since that date. 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. ยง 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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