United States District Court, D. South Carolina
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
David Curtis Blue protectively filed applications for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) on October
13, 2011, alleging disability since October 1, 2011. Tr. 22.
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 13, 2013. Tr. 31. The ALJ issued a
decision dated December 6, 2013, in which she 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 January
30, 2015. Tr. 2-8. 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
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 Jacquelyn D. Austin, for a Report and Recommendation.
On July 19, 2016, the Magistrate Judge filed a Report and
Recommendation in which she recommended that the
Commissioner’s decision to deny benefits be affirmed.
ECF No. 21. Plaintiff filed objections to the Report and
Recommendation on August 1, 2016. ECF No. 23. The
Commissioner filed a response to Plaintiff’s objections
on August 18, 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-two years old at the time of his hearing before the
ALJ regarding his applications for disability insurance
benefits and supplemental security income. Tr. 41. He has a
high school diploma and has worked in the past as a
loader/material handler, forklift operator, and yarn spooler.
Tr. 29, 255-62. He claims disability beginning October 1,
2011, alleging degnerative disc disease of the lumbar spine
with radiculopathy, sciatica, and decreased visual acuity.
Tr. 24. Plaintiff asserts specific objections to the Report
and Recommendation. The court will review each of these
objections in turn.
RFC and Credibility of Plaintiff’s Pain
objects to the Magistrate Judge finding no error with the
ALJ’s residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
determination. ECF No. 23 at 2. Plaintiff argues that the
ALJ arrived at this erroneous RFC because she improperly
discredited Plaintiff’s allegations of pain.
Furthermore, Plaintiff charges that the Magistrate Judge
“basically parrots those findings, with no true
analysis . . . .” ECF No. 23 at 2. The court finds
Plaintiff’s objection is without merit.
making a credibility determination of a claimant’s
allegations of pain, the Fourth Circuit has set forth a
two-part test: (1) a plaintiff must make a threshold showing
of a “medically determinable impairment which could
reasonably be expected to cause . . . the pain that the
claimant alleges [he] suffers;” and (2) “the
intensity and persistence of the claimant's pain, and the
extent to which it affects [his] ability to work, must be
evaluated.” Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 594
(4th Cir. 1996) (internal quotations omitted). Under the
first prong, the ALJ acknowledges that Plaintiff’s
medically determinable impairments “could reasonably be
expected to cause [Plaintiff’s] alleged
symptoms.” Tr. 27. However, despite Plaintiff’s
threshold showing, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff’s
allegations of pain and found them to be “not entirely
credible.” Tr. 27. The ALJ compared Plaintiff’s
statements with medical evidence and treatment history from
the case record and found inconsistencies. See
Felton-Miller v. Astrue, 459 F.App'x 226, 229 (4th
Cir. 2011) (“Factors in evaluating the claimant's
statements include consistency in the claimant's
statements, medical evidence, medical treatment history, and
the adjudicator's observations of the claimant.”).
The ALJ highlighted the following pieces of evidence as being
inconsistent with Plaintiff’s ...