United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division
ORDER ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND
AFFIRMING DEFENDANT’S FINAL DECISION DENYING
GEIGER LEWIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a Social Security appeal in which Plaintiff seeks judicial
review of the final decision of Defendant denying her claim
for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB). 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 DIB be affirmed.
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 April
28, 2016, and Plaintiff filed her Objections on May 12, 2016.
The Court has reviewed Plaintiff’s objections, but
finds them to be without merit. Therefore, it will enter
filed her application for DIB in September 2011, asserting
that her disability commenced on April 18, 2011. Defendant
denied her application initially and upon reconsideration.
Plaintiff requested a hearing, which the Administrate Law
Judge (ALJ), Peggy McFadden-Elmore, conducted on July 17,
2013. On December 6, 2013, 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 on February 9, 2015. Accordingly,
Defendant’s decision became final for purposes of
judicial review on that date. Plaintiff filed this suit on
March 13, 2015.
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. §§
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, not to the ALJ’s decision.
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).
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).
Plaintiff contends that the Magistrate Judge erred in finding
that the “evidence of record supported the ALJ’s
credibility determination.” Objections 2. According to
Plaintiff, the Magistrate Judge was mistaken in accepting
“that Plaintiff’s testimony was inconsistent with
the medical evidence of record.” Id. The
record before the Court belies Plaintiff’s argument.
this argument centers around a statement that the ALJ made in
her decision regarding Plaintiff’s intention to record
songs “along with the other medical evidence of
record.” Report 13 (quoting A.R. 17). The ALJ opined
that this evidence “indicates that [Plaintiff] is not
as limited as she alleges.” Id.
Plaintiff’s emphasis on this issue is misplaced.
without deciding, that the ALJ should not have relied on
Plaintiff’s intention to record songs in her
credibility determination, the error would be harmless. As
the ALJ detailed in his decision, there are a host of others
reasons for the ALJ’s holding that Plaintiff was not
entirely credible. Here is how the ALJ summed up the evidence
as to Plaintiffs credibility:
I considered but granted little probative weight to
[Plaintiff’s] testimony regarding the severity of her
impairments. The severity of [Plaintiff’s] allegations,
including that she is unable to accomplish tasks and has
frequent panic attacks, is not supported by the record. For
example, July 23, 2012 record’s “Interval
comments” state, “Generally doing well. Has some
down times and anxiety that are brief.” August 2012
records state that the claimant was “Stable, Doing
well.” The plan was to “Continue same, Provided
supportive therapy, Fu 1 month.” In the September 18,
2012 visit, records note no suicidal/homicidal ideation, no
psychosis, good mood and interest, with anxiety noted as
“Mild, Moderate.” This assessment further
indicated, “Stable.” The visit notation also
stated, “She and friend are planning to record some
music.” Although claimant testified at the hearing that
the music recording session, “Never happened[, ”]
this along with the other medical evidence of record
indicates that [Plaintiff] is not as limited as she alleges.
Regarding her physical impairments, medical records show that
her conditions have been and continue to be treated with no
indication of limitations beyond that provided in the
residual functional capacity determination. The residual
functional capacity generously accommodates any of the
claimant’s alleged concentration and pain symptoms.
A.R. 17. Having read and reread this recitation, the Court is
unable to accept Plaintiff’s argument that the ALJ made
an improper credibility determination. There can be no doubt
that substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s decision
in this regard. And, there is no error of law. As such, the
Court will overrule this objection.
Plaintiff asserts that the Magistrate Judge was mistaken in
“conclud[ing] Plaintiff’s husband’s lack of
medical background and his close ties to Plaintiff were
proper reasons for [the ALJ’s] finding him not