United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division
Harry S. Hough, Plaintiff,
Carolyn W. Colvin, Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking
judicial review of the Commissioner of Social
Security’s (“Commissioner”) final decision,
which denied Plaintiff Harry S. Hough’s
(“Plaintiff”) claims for disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income
(“SSI”). The record includes the Report and
Recommendation (“Report”) of United States
Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant, which was made in
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1)(B) and Local
Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(a), D.S.C.
Report, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the court affirm
the Commissioner’s final decision denying benefits.
Plaintiff filed timely objections to the Report, and the
Commissioner filed a response to those objections.
See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) (providing that a
party may object, in writing, to a Magistrate Judge’s
Report within fourteen days after being served a copy).
applied for DIB and SSI on April 2, 2010, due to problems
with the left side of his face and neck due to cancer surgery
in that area. Plaintiff’s applications were denied
initially and on reconsideration. Plaintiff requested a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”), which was held on August 23, 2013. On
December 6, 2013, the ALJ issued a decision denying
Plaintiff’s claims. The Appeals Council denied review,
thereby making the ALJ’s decision the final decision of
was 49 years old on the date he alleges he became disabled.
He has a high school education as well as three years of
college, and he has past relevant work experience as an
assembly line supervisor, machine operator, fork lift
operator, and assembler.
The Magistrate Judge’s Report
court conducts a de novo review to 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
recommendations contained in the Report. 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1). Any written objection must specifically identify
the portion of the Report to which the objection is made and
the basis for the objection. Id.
Judicial Review of a Final Decision
role of the federal judiciary in the administrative scheme as
established by the Social Security Act is a limited one.
Section 205(g) of the Act provides that “[t]he findings
of the Commissioner of Social Security, as to any fact, if
supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive . . .
.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “Consequently,
judicial review . . . of a final decision regarding
disability benefits is limited to determining whether the
findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether
the correct law was applied.” Walls v.
Barnhart, 296 F.3d 287, 290 (4th Cir. 2002).
“Substantial evidence” is defined as:
evidence which a reasoning mind would accept as sufficient to
support a particular conclusion. It consists of more than a
mere scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less than a
preponderance. If there is evidence to justify a refusal to
direct a verdict were the case before a jury, then there is
Shively v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 987, 989 (4th Cir.
1984) (quoting Laws v. Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640, 642
(4th Cir. 1966)). In assessing whether substantial evidence
exists, the reviewing court should not “undertake to
reweigh conflicting evidence, make credibility
determinations, or substitute [its] judgment for that
of” the agency. Mastro v. Apfel, 270 F.3d 171,
176 (4th Cir. 2001) (alteration in original).
The Commissioner’s Final Decision
Commissioner is charged with determining the existence of a
disability. The Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
301-1399, defines “disability” as the
“inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or
which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous
period of not less than 12 months . . . .” 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(A). This determination involves the
following five-step inquiry:
[The first step is] whether the claimant engaged in
substantial gainful employment. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b).
If not, the analysis continues to determine whether, based
upon the medical evidence, the claimant has a severe
impairment. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c) If the claimed
impairment is sufficiently severe, the third step considers
whether the claimant has an impairment that equals or exceeds
in severity one or more of the impairments listed in Appendix
I of the regulations. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d); 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, subpart P, App. I. If so, the claimant is disabled.
If not, the next inquiry considers if the impairment prevents
the claimant from returning to past work. 20 C.F.R. §