United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division
ANGEL V. JACKSON, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
C. NORTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on United States Magistrate Judge
Kevin F. McDonald's Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) that this court affirm Acting
Commissioner of Social Security Carolyn Colvin's (the
“Commissioner”) decision denying plaintiff Angel
V. Jackson's (“Jackson”) claims for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and
supplemental security income benefits (“SSIB”).
Jackson filed objections to the R&R. For the reasons set
forth below, the court adopts the R&R and affirms the
filed applications for DIB and SSIB on May 15, 2006, alleging
disability beginning April 1, 2006. The Social Security
Administration denied Jackson's applications on April 21,
2009, and no further action was taken. Plaintiff filed a
second DIB application on October 22, 2009, again alleging
disability beginning April 1, 2006. This second claim was
denied initially and on reconsideration. Jackson requested a
hearing before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”), but later withdrew that request, at
which point Jackson's second claim was dismissed.
filed the instant applications for DIB and SSIB on July 20,
2011, alleging disability beginning on June 20, 2011. The
Social Security Administration denied the claims initially
and on reconsideration. Jackson requested a hearing before an
ALJ and ALJ Gregory M. Wilson held a hearing on August 27,
2013. The ALJ issued a decision on February 14, 2014, finding
that Jackson was not disabled under the Social Security Act.
Jackson requested Appeals Council review of the ALJ's
decision. The Appeals Council declined to review the
decision, rendering the ALJ's decision the final action
of the Commissioner.
15, 2015, Jackson filed this action seeking review of the
ALJ's decision. The magistrate judge issued an R&R on
July 29, 2016, recommending that this court affirm the
ALJ's decision. Jackson filed objections to the R&R
on August 16, 2016, and the Commissioner responded to
Jackson's objections on September 1, 2016. The matter is
now ripe for the court's review.
Jackson's medical history is not directly at issue here,
the court dispenses with a lengthy recitation thereof and
instead notes a few relevant facts. Jackson was born on June
28, 1964 and was 46 years old at the time of her alleged
disability onset date. She communicates in English and has at
least a high school education.
employed the statutorily required five-step sequential
evaluation process to determine if Jackson was disabled
between June 20, 2011, and August 27, 2013, the date of the
hearing. The ALJ first determined that Jackson had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity during the relevant
time period. Tr. 20. At step two, the ALJ found that Jackson
suffered from the following severe impairments: headaches, a
thyroid disorder, osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease, and obesity. Id. At step three,
the ALJ determined that Jackson's impairments did not
meet or equal one of the listed impairments in the
Agency's Listing of Impairments (“the
Listings”). Tr. 21; see 20 C.F.R. § 404,
Subpt. P, App'x 1. Before reaching the fourth step, the
ALJ determined that Jackson had the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work, as
defined by 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), with certain
restrictions. Tr. 24. More specifically, the ALJ determined
that Jackson could never climb ropes, ladders, or scaffolds,
but could occasionally climb ramps or stairs, balance, stoop,
kneel, crouch, or crawl. Id. The ALJ further
determined that Jackson had to avoid concentrated exposure to
hazards and fumes, and due to visual disturbance, she could
not drive or handle small objects such as a needle.
Id. At step four, the ALJ found that Jackson was
unable to perform her past relevant work as a nursery school
attendant or day care worker. Id. at 32.
Nevertheless, the ALJ found that given Jackson's age,
education, work experience, and RFC, she was capable of
performing other work that exists in significant numbers in
the national economy. Id. at 33-34. Therefore, the
ALJ concluded that Jackson was not disabled. Id.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court is charged with conducting a de novo review of
any portion of the magistrate judge's R&R to which
specific, written objections are made. 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1). A party's failure to object is accepted as
agreement with the conclusions of the magistrate judge.
See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149-50 (1985). The
recommendation of the magistrate judge carries no presumptive
weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination
rests with this court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S.
261, 270-71 (1976).
review of the Commissioner's final decision regarding
disability benefits “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.2d 1453,
1456 (4th Cir. 1990). Substantial evidence is “more
than a mere scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less
than a preponderance.” Id. (internal citations
omitted). “[I]t is not within the province of a
reviewing court to determine the weight of the evidence, nor
is it the court's function to substitute its judgment for
that of the [Commissioner] if his decision is supported by
substantial evidence.” Id. Where conflicting
evidence “allows reasonable minds to differ as to
whether a claimant is disabled, the responsibility for that
decision falls on the [ALJ], ” not on the reviewing
court. Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589 (4th Cir.
1996) (internal citation omitted). However, “[a]
factual finding by the ALJ is not binding if it was reached
by means of an improper standard or misapplication of the
law.” Coffman v. Bowen, 829 F.2d 514, 517 (4th