United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the court on United States Magistrate Judge
Mary Gordon Baker's Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) recommending that this court affirm
Acting Commissioner of Social Security Nancy A.
Berryhill's (the “Commissioner”) decision
denying plaintiff Albert Darnell Alexander, III's
(“Alexander”) application for disability
insurance benefits (“DIB”) and social security
insurance benefits (“SSI”). For the reasons set
forth below, the court adopts the R&R, and affirms the
filed an application for SSI and DIB on October 14, 2011. Tr.
27. In each application, Alexander alleged disability
beginning November 16, 2008 (the “alleged onset
date”). Id. The Social Security Administration
denied Alexander's claims initially and on
reconsideration. Id. Alexander requested a hearing
before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), and
ALJ Marcus Christ held a hearing on February 20, 2014. Tr.
51-83. The ALJ issued a decision on April 4, 2014, finding
that Alexander was not disabled under the Social Security Act
(the “Act”). Tr. 27-42. Alexander requested
Appeals Council review of the ALJ's decision. The Appeals
Council declined Alexander's request, Tr. 1-6, rendering
the ALJ's decision the final action of the Commissioner.
December 18, 2015, Alexander filed this action seeking
judicial review of the ALJ's decision. The magistrate
judge issued the R&R on January 19, 2017, recommending
that this court affirm the ALJ's decision. Alexander
filed objections to the R&R on January 27, 2017, and the
Commissioner responded to Alexander's objections on
February 3, 2017. The matter is now ripe for the court's
Alexander's medical history is not directly at issue
here, the court dispenses with a lengthy recitation thereof
and instead notes a few relevant facts. Alexander was born on
August 18, 1965 and was 43 years old on the alleged onset
date. Tr. 40. He communicates in English and has a high
school education. Tr. 40-41
employed the statutorily required five-step sequential
evaluation process to determine whether Alexander had been
under a disability since the alleged onset date. The ALJ
first determined that Alexander had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity during the relevant period. Tr.
30. At step two, the ALJ found that Alexander suffered from
the following severe impairments: a neck disorder,
headaches/head pain, a back disorder, attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”), and depression.
Id. At step three, the ALJ determined that
Alexander's impairments did not meet or equal one of the
listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
1 (“the Listings”). Tr. 31-33. Before reaching
the fourth step, the ALJ determined that Johnson had the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
“less than a full range of light work as defined in 20
C.F.R. 404.1567(b) and 416.976(b), ” and that Alexander
could never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds, and should
avoid concentrated exposure to excess vibration, respiratory
irritants, and workplace hazards. Tr. 33. Additionally, the
ALJ determined that Alexander could perform “simple,
routine, repetitive tasks.” Id. At step four,
the ALJ found that Alexander was unable to perform his past
relevant work, but based on his age, education, and RFC,
Alexander could perform certain jobs that existed in
significant numbers in the national economy. Tr. 41.
Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Alexander had not been
under a disability within the meaning of the Act since the
alleged onset date.
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 ...