United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division
Michael D. Williams, Plaintiff,
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
PATRICK MICHAEL DUFFY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Michael
Williams’ objections to United States Magistrate Judge
Bristow Marchant’s report and recommendation (“R
& R”) (ECF Nos. 17 & 15). The Magistrate Judge
recommends that the Court affirm the Commissioner’s
final decision that Williams is no longer disabled. For the
reasons stated herein, the Court adopts the R & R and
affirms the Commissioner’s decision.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court.
The R & R has no presumptive weight, and the
responsibility for making a final determination remains with
the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71
(1976). Parties may make written objections to the Magistrate
Judge’s proposed findings and recommendations within
fourteen days after being served with a copy of the R &
R. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). This Court must conduct a de
novo review of any portion of the R & R to which a
specific objection is made, and the Court may accept, reject,
or modify the Magistrate Judge’s findings and
recommendations in whole or in part. Id.
Additionally, the Court may recommit the matter to the
Magistrate Judge with instructions. Id. A
party’s failure to object is taken as the party’s
agreement with the Magistrate Judge’s conclusions.
See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 151-52 (1985).
Absent a timely, specific objection-or as to those portions
of the R & R to which no specific objection is made-this
Court “must ‘only satisfy itself that there is no
clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the
recommendation.’” Diamond v. Colonial Life
& Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir.
2005) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee’s
raises five objections to the Magistrate Judge’s R
& R. His first four objections, however, simply rehash
arguments made before the Magistrate Judge. The Court
summarily rejects those four objections as they are not
proper objections. See, e.g., Anderson v.
Dobson, 627 F.Supp.2d 619, 623 (W.D. N.C. 2007)
(“An ‘objection’ that . . . simply
summarizes what has been presented before, is not an
‘objection’ as that term is used in this
context.” (citation and quotation marks omitted)).
Court now turns to Williams’ sole cognizable objection.
Williams contends that the United States Court of Appeals for
the Fourth Circuit’s recent decision, Monroe v.
Colvin, --F.3d --, 2016 WL 3349355 (4th Cir. June 16,
2016), requires administrative law judges
(“ALJs”) to give more thorough explanations of
their reasoning than the ALJ provided in this case. In
Monroe, the Fourth Circuit emphasized that “a
necessary predicate to engaging in a substantial evidence
review is a record of the basis for the ALJ’s ruling,
including a discussion of which evidence the ALJ found
credible and why, and specific application of the pertinent
legal requirements to the record evidence. Id. at
*10 (citation and quotation marks omitted). Thus, the ALJ
must “‘build an accurate and logical bridge from
the evidence to his conclusion.’” Id. at
*11 (quoting Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 872
(7th Cir. 2000)).
Williams’ contentions to the contrary, the ALJ’s
findings of fact and conclusions of law are supported by
substantial evidence, and his decision creates the requisite
logical bridge between the evidence and his conclusions. As
the Magistrate Judge repeatedly stated, this Court may not
substitute its own judgment for the ALJ’s credibility
determinations. See Laws v. Celebrezze, 368 F.2d
640, 642 (4th Cir. 1996). Although Williams contends that the
ALJ failed to make credibility determinations or to create a
logical bridge from the evidence to his conclusions, the
Court concludes that the ALJ did make the requisite
credibility determinations as he constructed the logical
bridge. As the Magistrate Judge also discussed extensively,
the Court’s scope of review is limited “to
determining whether the findings of the [Commissioner] are
supported by substantial evidence and whether the correct law
was applied.” Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.3d 1453,
1456 (4th Cir. 1990). If the record contains substantial
evidence supporting the ALJ’s decision, the Court must
affirm. Id. The Court has thoroughly reviewed the
record and finds that the substantial evidence here compels
it to affirm.
primarily argues that the ALJ’s discussion of
Williams’ consultative examination with Dr. Panjal and
Williams’ claim of spinal stenosis was insufficient
under Monroe. On page nine of his decision, the ALJ
states his conclusion that Williams is capable of performing
the full range of medium work and then proceeds to describe
Williams’ capabilities function by function. He then
explains why he denied Williams’ disability claim after
June 7, 2013, stating that “the claimant’s
statements concerning the intensity, persistence, and
limiting effects of [his] symptoms are not entirely credible
for the reasons explained in this decision.” (R. 25.)
Relying on Williams’ past treatment history, Dr.
Panjal’s consultative examination, and Williams’
subsequent medical notes and treatment, the ALJ properly
examined the evidence and explained how it led to his
argues that the ALJ’s discussion of Dr. Panjal’s
examination was inadequate. The ALJ ordered Williams to
undergo a consultative examination with Dr. Panjal, which he
completed on June 8, 2013. Dr. Panjal put Williams through a
series of tests in order to determine the extent of his
disability, if any. After the examination, Dr. Panjal drafted
a report that the ALJ described as “one of the most
thorough that [he] ha[d] ever encountered.” (R. 25.)
Then, during a supplemental hearing on December 9, 2013,
Williams testified that some of the tests documented in Dr.
Panjal’s report did not actually take place. Although
the ALJ sent a subpoena to Dr. Panjal to secure his
attendance at the supplemental hearing, Dr. Panjal did not
appear. Thus, the ALJ was unable to ask Dr. Panjal about the
allegedly unperformed tests. However, the Court is convinced
that the ALJ made a determination that Dr. Panjal performed
the tests he claimed to have completed. In his decision, the
The claimant underwent consultative examination with Anand
Panchal, D.O., on June 8, 2013, which showed his back and
shoulder impairments no longer caused him any significant
limitations. His gait was steady, symmetric and not antalgic.
He had no palpable muscle spasm, and he had full muscle
strength throughout with the exception of slightly diminished
strength of his bilateral deltoids. Additionally, the
claimant had negative straight leg raise, was able to walk on
heels and toes, had no difficulty getting up and down from
the examination table, could tandem walk, and was able to hop
on one foot bilaterally. The claimant did have mild loss of
range of motion of his bilateral shoulders, but none in his
neck or back. As a result of his examination, Dr. Panchal
opined that the claimant could do medium work, with some
minimal manipulative, environmental, and postural
(R. 24.) Although the ALJ does not explicitly state that he
has made a credibility determination that Dr. Panjal’s
report was accurate and that he performed the tests in
question, the unequivocal language in the above paragraph
demonstrates the ALJ concluded that Dr. Panjal’s report
was accurate. Further, if the ALJ had not believed Dr.
Panjal’s report to be accurate, he certainly would not
have relied on it so extensively. Finally, the ALJ stated
there was no objective evidence that Dr. Panjal did not
perform the tests indicated in his report.
an explicit credibility determination would have simplified
this analysis, the end result is the same. Without precisely
saying so, the ALJ determined that Dr. Panjal’s
examination report was credible. His report showed that
Williams had only mild loss of strength and range of motion
in his shoulders, and contained no other significant
findings. Dr. Panjal’s determination of mild loss of
strength and range of motion in the shoulders, together with
Williams’ limited treatment and complaints about his
shoulder pain since 2012, is substantial evidence that
compels the Court to uphold the ALJ’s decision.
Williams’ claim of spinal stenosis, the ALJ concluded
that the moderate central canal stenosis indicated in
Williams’ November 2013 MRI did not cause him any
significant physical limitations. In addition to the MRI
indicating moderate central canal stenosis at ¶ 5-C6,
the ALJ also considered several other pieces of relevant
evidence that led to his conclusion. First, Williams reported
no neck pain at his consultative examination with Dr.
Panchal. Second, the ALJ concluded that Dr.
Wu’s conclusion on Williams’ stenosis was
limited to a finding that such spinal stenosis can cause
pain, but did not constitute an opinion that Williams’
spinal stenosis did cause him pain. Viewing the evidence as a
whole, the ALJ concluded that Williams’ allegation of
severe pain relating to his spinal stenosis was not credible
because he had not made many complaints as to neck pain since
2010 and did not report any neck pain during his consultative
examination. Based on that evidence, the ALJ concluded that
Williams was capable of performing medium work and the
functions associated with that residual functional capacity.
As with the discussion of Dr. Panchal’s consultative
examination above, an explicit credibility determination
would have greatly simplified the Court’s inquiry.
However, it is the ALJ, rather than this ...