United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Aiken Division
ORDER ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND
AFFIRMING DEFENDANT'S DENIAL OF PLAINTIFF'S CLAIMS
GEIGER LEWIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
a Social Security appeal in which Plaintiff seeks judicial
review of the final decision of Defendant denying her claims
for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental
Security Income (SSI). The parties are represented by
excellent counsel. The matter is before the Court for review
of the Report and Recommendation (Report) of the United
States Magistrate Judge suggesting to the Court
Defendant's decision denying Plaintiff's claims for
DIB and SSI be affirmed. The Report was made in accordance
with 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Civil Rule 73.02 for the
District of South Carolina.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court.
The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The
responsibility to make a final determination remains with the
Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270 (1976).
The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of
those portions of the Report to which specific objection is
made, and the Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole
or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge or
recommit the matter with instructions. 28 U.S.C. §
Magistrate Judge filed the Report on March 13, 2017. ECF No.
17. Plaintiff filed her objections on March 24, 2017. ECF No.
20. Defendant failed to object to the Report. The Court has
carefully reviewed Plaintiff's objections and holds them
meritless. Therefore, it will enter judgment accordingly.
filed her application for DIB on November 30, 2012, asserting
her disability commenced on May 6, 2012. Plaintiff's
application was denied initially and upon reconsideration.
Plaintiff then filed an application for SSI on August 27,
2014. The ALJ conducted a hearing on Plaintiff's
applications on September 26, 2014. On December 9, 2014, the
ALJ issued a decision holding Plaintiff was not disabled
under the Act. The Appeals Council subsequently denied
Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision.
Accordingly, the ALJ's decision became Defendant's
final decision for purposes of judicial review. Thereafter,
Plaintiff filed an action in this Court on July 12, 2016,
seeking judicial review of Defendant's decision denying
Social Security Administration has established a five-step
sequential evaluation process for determining whether a
person is disabled. 20 C.F.R. '' 404.1520(a),
416.920(a). The five steps are: (1) whether the claimant is
currently engaging in substantial gainful activity; (2)
whether the claimant has a medically determinable severe
impairment(s); (3) whether such impairment(s) meets or equals
an impairment set forth in the Listings; (4) whether the
impairment(s) prevents the claimant from returning to his
past relevant work; and, if so, (5) whether the claimant is
able to perform other work as it exists in the national
economy. 20 C.F.R. '' 404.1520(a)(4)(I)-(v),
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), a district court is required to
conduct a de novo review of those portions of the Magistrate
Judge's Report to which a specific objection has been
made. The Court need not conduct a de novo review, however,
''when a party makes general and conclusory
objections that do not direct the court to a specific error
in the [Magistrate Judge's] proposed findings and
recommendations.'' Orpiano v. Johnson, 687
F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982); see Fed. R. Civ. P.
72(b). Thus, the Court will address each specific objection
to the Report in turn. As provided above, however, the Court
need not-and will not-address any of Plaintiff's
arguments that fail to point the Court to alleged specific
errors the Magistrate Judge made in the Report.
Plaintiff's duty to both produce evidence and prove she
is disabled under the Act. See Pass v. Chater, 65
F.3d 1200, 1203 (4th Cir. 1995). And, it is the duty of the
ALJ, not this Court, to make findings of fact and to resolve
conflicts in the evidence. Hays v. Sullivan, 907
F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). Under the substantial
evidence standard, however, the Court must view the entire
record as a whole. See Steurer v. Bowen, 815 F.2d,
1249, 1250 (8th Cir. 1987).
the substantial evidence standard presupposes a zone of
choice within which the decisionmakers can go either way,
without interference by the courts. An administrative
decision is not subject to reversal merely because
substantial evidence would have supported an opposite
decision.'' Clarke v. Bowen, 843 F.2d 271,
272-73 (8th Cir. 1988) (citations omitted) (internal
quotation marks omitted) (alteration omitted). Likewise, when
considering a Social Security disability claim, it is not the
province of this Court to “reweigh conflicting evidence
. . . or substitute [its] judgment for that of the
ALJ.'' Johnson v. Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650,
653 (4th Cir. 2005) (per curiam) (citation omitted)
(alteration omitted). The Court ''must sustain the
ALJ's decision, even if [it] disagree[s] with it,
provided the determination is supported by substantial
evidence.'' Smith v. Chater, 99 F.3d 635,
638 (4th Cir. 1996).
sets forth three objections to the Magistrate Judge's
Report. The Court will address each of Plaintiff's
objections in turn.
first objection relates to the Magistrate Judge's
suggestion the ALJ adequately addressed Plaintiff's
allegation of lower extremity edema. The particulars of
Plaintiff's argument and reasoning are unclear. Plaintiff
appears to assert the ALJ failed to consider Plaintiff's
edema when assessing her residual functional capacity (RFC).
As the Magistrate Judge thoroughly explained, however, the
ALJ did acknowledge and consider Plaintiff's claim that
edema in her lower extremities prevented her from working
when assessing her RFC. See Tr. at 16-21.
also appears to claim it is impossible to determine whether
the AJL held Plaintiff's lower extremity edema was
severely disabling. A review of the ALJ's decision
reveals he determined Plaintiff's edema was not severely
disabling. See Tr. at 13-15, 21. In an abundance of
caution, the Court has conducted a de novo review of the
portion of the Magistrate Judge's Report regarding
whether the ALJ adequately addressed Plaintiff's edema,
and the Court holds the Magistrate Judge's recommendation
is well-reasoned and proper. Accordingly, the Court holds
Plaintiff's first objection to be without merit.
Plaintiff's second objection, she maintains the
Magistrate Judge erred in recommending there is no evidence
Plaintiff has motor loss such that she meets or equals the
impairment in Listing 1.04(A). Listing 1.04(A) provides:
1.04 Disorders of the spine (e.g., herniated nucleus
pulposus, spinal arachnoiditis, spinal stenosis,
osteoarthritis, degenerative disc diseases, facet arthritis,
vertebral fracture), resulting in compromise of a nerve root