United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Margaret B. Seymour Senior United States District Judge
an action brought pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social
Security Act (the “Act”), codified as amended at
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to obtain judicial review of the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
Billy Mitchell protectively filed applications for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”) on November 7, 2011,
alleging disability since February 21, 2010. Tr. 14. His
applications were denied initially and on reconsideration.
Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law
judge (“ALJ”). The ALJ held a hearing on November
4, 2013. Tr. 31. The ALJ issued a decision dated December 2,
2013, in which he concluded that Plaintiff was not
“disabled” as defined in the Social Security Act.
Tr. 25. Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was
not entitled to disability insurance benefits or supplemental
security income under Sections 216(i), 223(d), and
1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act. Plaintiff filed a
request for review of the ALJ’s decision, which was
denied by the Appeals Council on February 10, 2015. Tr. 1-3.
Thus, the decision of the ALJ became the “final
decision” of the Commissioner for the purposes of
judicial review. Plaintiff thereafter brought this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review.
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 73.02,
D.S.C., this matter was referred to United States Magistrate
Judge Thomas E. Rogers, III, for a Report and Recommendation.
On May 27, 2016, the Magistrate Judge filed a Report and
Recommendation in which he recommended that the
Commissioner’s decision to deny benefits be affirmed.
ECF No. 20. Plaintiff filed objections to the Report and
Recommendation on June 12, 2016. ECF No. 22. The Commissioner
filed a response to Plaintiff’s objections on July 16,
2016. ECF No. 24.
matter now is before the court for review of the Magistrate
Judge’s Report and Recommendation. The court is charged
with making a de novo determination of any portions
of the Report to which a specific objection is made. The
court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the
recommendation made by the Magistrate Judge or may recommit
the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. 28
U.S.C. § 636(b).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
role of the federal judiciary in the administrative scheme
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). “Substantial evidence
has been defined innumerable times as more than a scintilla,
but less than a preponderance.” Thomas v.
Celebrezze, 331 F.2d 541, 543 (4thCir. 1964).
This standard precludes a de novo review of the
factual circumstances that substitutes the court’s
findings for those of the Commissioner. Vitek v.
Finch, 438 F.2d 1157 (4th Cir. 1971). The
court must uphold the Commissioner’s decision as long
as it is supported by substantial evidence. Blalock v.
Richardson, 483 F.2d 773, 775 (4th Cir.
1972). “From 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.” Flack v. Cohen, 413
F.2d 278, 279 (4th Cir. 1969). “[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
Commissioner’s findings of fact are not binding if they
were based upon the application of an improper legal
standard. Coffman v. Bowen, 829 F.2d 514, 517
(4th Cir. 1987). However, the Commissioner’s
denial of benefits shall be reversed only if no reasonable
mind could accept the record as adequate to support that
determination. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389,
was forty-six years old at the time of his hearing before the
ALJ regarding his applications for disability insurance
benefits and supplemental security income. Tr. 35. He has
some high school education and has worked in the past as a
heating and air conditioning technician, a utility cableman,
and a utility lineman. Tr. 35 and 278. He claims disability
beginning February 21, 2010, alleging coronary artery
disease, diabetes, degenerative joint disease, and gout. Tr.
16. Plaintiff asserts specific objections to the Report and
Recommendation. The court will review each of these
objections in turn.
Medication Side Effects
objects to the Magistrate Judge finding no error in the
ALJ’s decision not to give serious weight to
Plaintiff’s alleged side effects caused by his
medications. ECF No. 22 at 2. Plaintiff testified that his
medications would send him to the bathroom and also make him
fall asleep. Tr. 38 and 40. In rendering his decision, the
ALJ stated that these alleged side effects were not
corroborated by Plaintiff’s medical records. Tr. 21.
Plaintiff takes exception to this statement, arguing that it
is “conclusory [and] unsupported.” ECF No. 22 at
3. Plaintiff points to five instances in his medical records
where side effects are referenced. Id. at 2. Had the
ALJ considered the side effects reflected in the record,
Plaintiff argues, the ALJ may have arrived at a different
[I]f the ALJ had considered the combined effects of
[Plaintiff’s] numerous physical conditions--including
the impact of the prescriptive drugs used to treat them--the
effect would have been case-determinative and clearly would
have demonstrated that [Plaintiff’s] ...