United States District Court, D. South Carolina
OPINION AND ORDER
Howe Hendricks United States District Judge
Angela Edwards (“Plaintiff") brought this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3) to obtain judicial
review of a final decision of Defendant, Commissioner of
Social Security (“Commissioner"), denying her
claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB")
and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI") under
Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act. In
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rules
73.02(B)(2)(a) and 83.VII.02, D.S.C., this matter was
referred to United States Magistrate Judge Kaymani D. West,
for pretrial handling. On April 15, 2016, the Magistrate
Judge issued a Report and Recommendation (“Report"
or “R&R") in which she determined that Plaintiff
did not show that the Commissioner’s decision was
unsupported by substantial evidence or reached through
application of an incorrect legal standard. Accordingly, the
Magistrate Judge recommended affirming the
Commissioner’s decision. (ECF No. 19.) Plaintiff filed
Objections on May 2, 2016. (ECF No. 21.) For the reasons
stated below, the Court adopts the Report and affirms the
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Report sets forth in detail the relevant facts and standards
of law on this matter, and the Court incorporates them and
summarizes below in relevant part.Plaintiff was 35 years old on
her alleged disability onset date. She completed one year of
college and has past relevant work experience as an
administrative assistant and substitute teacher. On May 12,
2011, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB and SSI benefits
alleging a disability since August 1, 2010, due to
inflammatory arthritis, anemia, and idiopathic urticaria.
(Tr. 16.) A hearing was held before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ") who issued an unfavorable decision
on October 8, 2013, finding Plaintiff was not disabled under
the Act. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s request
for review, making the ALJ’s decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff subsequently filed an
action in this Court on March 13, 2015.
Magistrate Judge recommends affirming the ALJ’s
decision. (ECF No. 19 at 21.) The Magistrate Judge makes only
a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no
presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final
determination remains with the Court. Mathews v.
Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (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).
“However, the Court is not required to review, under a
de novo or any other standard, the factual or legal
conclusions of the Magistrate Judge as to those portions of
the report and recommendation to which no objections are
addressed. While the level of scrutiny entailed by the
Court’s review of the Report thus depends on whether or
not objections have been filed, in either case the Court is
free, after review, to accept, reject, or modify any of the
Magistrate Judge’s findings or recommendations."
Wallace v. Housing Auth. of the City of Columbia,
791 F.Supp. 137, 138 (D.S.C. 1992) (internal citations
STANDARD OF REVIEW
role of the federal judiciary in the administrative scheme
established by the Social Security Act is a limited one.
Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the Court may only review
whether the Commissioner’s decision is supported by
substantial evidence and whether the correct law was applied.
See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (“The findings of
the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if
supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive . . .
."); Myers v. Califano, 611 F.2d 980, 982 (4th
Cir. 1980). “Substantial evidence has been defined
innumerable times as more than a scintilla, but less than
preponderance." Thomas v. Celebrezze, 331 F.2d
541, 543 (4th Cir. 1964); see, e.g., Daniel v.
Gardner, 404 F.2d 889 (4th Cir. 1968); Laws v.
Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640 (4th Cir. 1966); Tyler v.
Weinberger, 409 F.Supp. 776 (E.D. Va. 1976). In order
for a reviewing court to determine whether the Commissioner
based a decision on substantial evidence, “the decision
must include the reasons for the determination . . . ."
Green v. Chater, 64 F.3d 657, 1995 WL 478032, *2
(4th Cir. 1995) (citing Cook v. Heckler, 783 F.2d
1168, 1172 (4th Cir. 1986)). The statutorily mandated
standard precludes a de novo review of the factual
circumstances that substitutes the Court’s findings for
those of the Commissioner. See, e.g., Vitek v.
Finch, 438 F.2d 1157 (4th Cir. 1971); Hicks v.
Gardner, 393 F.2d 299 (4th Cir. 1968). Accordingly,
“the court [must] uphold the [Commissioner’s]
decision even should the court disagree with such decision as
long as it is supported by ‘substantial
evidence.’" Blalock v. Richardson, 483
F.2d 773, 775 (4th Cir. 1972). As noted by Judge Sobeloff in
Flack v. Cohen, 413 F.2d 278 (4th Cir. 1969),
“[f]rom 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 action." Id. at 279.
“[T]he courts must not abdicate their responsibility to
give careful scrutiny to the whole record to assure that
there is a sound foundation for the [Commissioner’s]
findings, and that his conclusion is rational."
Vitek, 438 F.2d at 1157-58.
filed objections to the Report on May 2, 2016. (ECF No. 21.)
She objects that the Magistrate Judge erred in finding that
the ALJ: (1) properly determined that Plaintiff’s
impairments did not meet or equal Listing 14.09; and (2)
provided adequate reasons for her credibility determination.
respectfully, these objections are the precise matters raised
to the Magistrate Judge and appropriately rejected in her
thorough twenty-one page Report. (See ECF No. 19 at
12-20); see also Hendrix v. Colvin, 2013 WL 2407126,
at *4 (D.S.C. June 3, 2013); Jackson v. Astrue, 2011
WL 1883026 (W.D. N.C. May 17, 2011); Aldrich v.
Bock, 327 F.Supp.2d 743, 747 (E.D. Mich. 2004).
Nevertheless, the Court employs de novo review to
consider Plaintiff’s specific objections in
first argues that the ALJ erred in determining that
Plaintiff’s impairments did not meet or equal Listing
No. 14.09, which concerns the evaluation of inflammatory
arthritis as a severe impairment. (ECF No. 21 at 1.)
Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ ignored certain
evidence in making her determination and that the Magistrate
Judge “did not actually address the ALJ’s errors
in reasoning that [Plaintiff] pointed out."
(Id. at 3.) Plaintiff also relies on Fox v.
Colvin, 2015 WL 9204287 (4th Cir. 2015), to support her
assertion that the ALJ’s analysis here was
initial matter, the Court finds that the Magistrate Judge did
not ignore Plaintiff’s arguments on this issue. Rather,
she began her discussion by acknowledging Plaintiff’s
assertions that “record evidence" supports finding
her impairments meet or equal Listing 14.09. (ECF No. 19 at
14.) After reviewing the evidence in the record, however, the
Magistrate Judge found that “[a]lthough Plaintiff may
be able to point to selective evidence in support of finding