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Sarvghad v. Colvin

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

April 29, 2016

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



This is a Social Security appeal in which Plaintiff seeks judicial review of the final decision of Defendant denying his claim for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The matter is before the Court for review of the Report and Recommendation (Report) of the United States Magistrate Judge suggesting to the Court that Defendant’s final decision denying Plaintiff’s claim for SSI be affirmed.

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 the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270 (1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report to which specific objection is made, and the Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge or recommit the matter with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).0

The Magistrate Judge filed the Report on March 29, 2016, Plaintiff filed his Objections on April 15, 2016, and Defendant filed her Response to Plaintiff’s Objections on April 22, 2016. The Court has reviewed Plaintiff’s objections, but finds them to be without merit. Therefore, it will enter judgment accordingly.

Plaintiff filed his application for SSI on August 2, 2012, asserting that his disability commenced on June 1, 2005. His application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff requested a hearing, which the Administrate Law Judge (ALJ) conducted on April 30, 2014. On June 20, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s request for review of the ALJ’s decision. Accordingly, the ALJ’s decision became Defendant’s final decision for purposes of judicial review. Plaintiff then filed this suit in federal district court on March 8, 2015.

The Agency has established a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining if a person is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a). The five steps are: (1) whether the claimant is currently engaging in substantial gainful activity; (2) whether the claimant has a medically determinable severe impairment(s); (3) whether such impairment(s) meets or equals an impairment set forth in the Listings; (4) whether the impairment(s) prevents the claimant from returning to his past relevant work; and, if so, (5) whether the claimant is able to perform other work as it exists in the national economy. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(I)-(v), 416.920(a)(4)(I)-(v).

Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), a district court is required to conduct a de novo review of those portions of the Magistrate Judge’s Report to which a specific objection has been made. The Court need not conduct a de novo review, however, “when a party makes general and conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a specific error in the [Magistrate Judge’s] proposed findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b).

Thus, the Court will address each specific objection to the Report in turn. As provided above, however, the Court need not-and will not-address any of Plaintiff’s arguments that fail to point the Court to alleged specific errors that the Magistrate Judge made in the Report. That is why it is so important that Plaintiff directs her or his objections to the Report and not to the ALJ’s decision.

It is Plaintiff’s duty to both produce evidence and prove that she is disabled under the Act. See Pass v. Chater, 65 F.3d 1200, 1203 (4th Cir. 1995). And, it is the duty of the ALJ, not this Court, to make findings of fact and to resolve conflicts in the evidence. Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). Under the substantial evidence standard, however, we must view the entire record as a whole. See Steurer v. Bowen, 815 F.2d, 1249, 1250 (8th Cir. 1987).

In bears noting that “the substantial evidence standard presupposes a zone of choice within which the decisionmakers can go either way, without interference by the courts. An administrative decision is not subject to reversal merely because substantial evidence would have supported an opposite decision.” Clarke v. Bowen, 843 F.2d 271, 272-73 (8th Cir. 1988) (citations omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted) (alteration omitted).

Here, each of Plaintiff’s three numbered objections are directed toward the ALJ’s decision and not as they should be: to the Report. Instead, the Plaintiff has left the Court with the chore of teasing the objections out of Plaintiff’s eleven-page submission. Having completed that task, the Court will now address each objection it has uncovered in turn.

First, Plaintiff contends that the Magistrate Judge failed to “say a word that successfully contradicted” his argument that the ALJ found “that [Plaintiff’s] father testified to facts indicating that his son can work, when he in fact testified that his son cannot work, [and therefore the case] must . . . be remanded for reexamination of that testimony” Objections 1. The record before the Court belies Plaintiff’s argument.

The Magistrate Judge noted that

[w]hen asked why Plaintiff cannot work [Plaintiff’s father] testified that Plaintiff has mental issues and he did not believe Plaintiff could handle a job. Tr. 83. He testified that Plaintiff has “a hard time dealing with people. And a lot of people around him, and noise, and hearing voices, and he’s having really issues with them.” Id. [Plaintiff’s father] testified that he did not believe Plaintiff would be able to work in a quiet room by himself doing a simple, routine job because Plaintiff “would have a hard time understanding what he had to ...

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