United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson/Greenwood Division
ROGER D. DAVIS, JR., Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
C. NORTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on United States Magistrate Judge
Jacquelyn D. Austin's Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) that the court affirm Acting
Commissioner of Social Security Nancy A. Berryhill's (the
“Commissioner”) decision denying plaintiff Roger
D. Davis, Jr.'s (“Davis”) 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 Commissioner's decision.
filed applications for DIB and SSI on July 19, 2012. Both
applications allege disability beginning May 20, 2012 (the
“alleged onset date”). The Social Security
Administration denied Davis's claims initially and on
reconsideration. Davis requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”), and ALJ Nicole
S. Forbes-Schmitt conducted a hearing on November 7, 2013.
The ALJ issued a decision on January 31, 2014, finding that
Davis was not disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act (the “Act”) from his alleged onset
date through the date of the decision. Davis requested
Appeals Council review of the ALJ's decision. The Appeals
Council declined Davis's request, rendering the ALJ's
decision the final action of the Commissioner.
30, 2015, Davis filed this action seeking judicial review of
the ALJ's decision. ECF No. 1. The magistrate judge
issued the R&R on January 4, 2017, recommending that this
court affirm the ALJ's decision. Davis filed objections
to the R&R on February 1, 2017, ECF No. 20, and the
Commissioner responded to Davis's objections on February
15, 2017. ECF No. 22. The matter is now ripe for the
Davis's medical history is not directly at issue here,
the court dispenses with a lengthy recitation thereof and
instead notes a few relevant facts. Johnson was born on
November 8, 1973 and was 38 years old on the alleged onset
date. Tr. 24. He communicates in English and has limited
employed the statutorily required five-step sequential
evaluation process to determine whether Davis had been under
a disability since the alleged onset date. The ALJ first
determined that Davis had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity during the relevant period. Tr. 20. At step two, the
ALJ found that Davis suffered from a single severe
impairment: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine.
Id. At step three, the ALJ determined that Davis did
not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met
or equaled one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (“the Listings”). Tr.
21. Before reaching the fourth step, the ALJ determined that
Davis had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform “sedentary work as
defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(a) and 416.976(a)” with
the option to sit or stand at will and with no exposure to
additional hazards. Id. At step four, the ALJ found
that Davis was unable to perform his past relevant work as a
saw operator and floor finisher, but based on his age,
education, and RFC, Davis could perform certain jobs that
existed in significant numbers in the national economy. Tr.
24. Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Davis had not been
under a disability within the meaning of the Act since the
alleged onset date. Tr. 25.
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