United States District Court, D. South Carolina
OPINION AND ORDER
Howe Hendricks United States District Judge
Venisha Mary Bass (“Plaintiff”) brought this
action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3) to obtain
judicial review of a final decision of Defendant,
Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”),
denying her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security
Act. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and
Local Rules 73.02(B)(2)(a) and 83.VII.02, D.S.C., this matter
was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Jacquelyn D.
Austin, for pretrial handling. On October 31, 2016, the
Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation
(“Report” or “R&R”) in which she
determined that Plaintiff did not show that the
Commissioner's decision was unsupported by substantial
evidence or reached through application of an incorrect legal
standard. Accordingly, the Magistrate Judge recommended
affirming the Commissioner's decision. (ECF No. 32.)
Plaintiff filed Objections on December 1, 2016. (ECF No. 35.)
For the reasons stated below, the Court adopts the Report and
affirms the Commissioner's decision.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Report and Recommendation sets forth in detail the relevant
facts and standards of law on this matter, and the Court
incorporates them and summarizes below in relevant part.
Plaintiff was 40 years old on her alleged disability onset
date and has past relevant work experience in housekeeping,
packaging and janitorial work. On October 5, 2012, Plaintiff
filed an application for DIB benefits, alleging a disability
since May 1, 2012, due to impairments of vocal cord
blisters/hoars[e]ness, borderline intellectual functioning,
attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), and acid
reflux. A hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) who issued an unfavorable decision on
June 13, 2014, finding Plaintiff was not disabled under the
Act. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of
the Commissioner. Plaintiff subsequently filed an action in
this Court on September 11, 2015. (ECF No. 1.)
Magistrate Judge recommends affirming the ALJ's decision.
The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this
Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the
responsibility to make a final determination remains with the
Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (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 to him with instructions. 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1). “However, the Court is not required
to review, under a de novo or any other standard,
the factual or legal conclusions of the Magistrate Judge as
to those portions of the report and recommendation to which
no objections are addressed. While the level of scrutiny
entailed by the Court's review of the Report thus depends
on whether or not objections have been filed, in either case
the Court is free, after review, to accept, reject, or modify
any of the Magistrate Judge's findings or
recommendations.” Wallace v. Housing Auth. of the
City of Columbia, 791 F.Supp. 137, 138 (D.S.C. 1992)
(internal citations omitted).
role of the federal judiciary in the administrative scheme
established by the Social Security Act is a limited one.
Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the Court may only review
whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by
substantial evidence and whether the correct law was applied.
See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (“The findings of
the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if
supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive . . .
.”); Myers v. Califano, 611 F.2d 980, 982 (4th
Cir. 1980). “Substantial evidence has been defined
innumerable times as more than a scintilla, but less than
preponderance.” Thomas v. Celebrezze, 331 F.2d
541, 543 (4th Cir. 1964); see, e.g., Daniel v.
Gardner, 404 F.2d 889 (4th Cir. 1968); Laws v.
Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640 (4th Cir. 1966); Tyler v.
Weinberger, 409 F.Supp. 776 (E.D. Va. 1976). In order
for a reviewing court to determine whether the Commissioner
based a decision on substantial evidence, “the decision
must include the reasons for the determination . . . .”
Green v. Chater, 64 F.3d 657, 1995 WL 478032, *2
(4th Cir. 1995) (citing Cook v. Heckler, 783 F.2d
1168, 1172 (4th Cir. 1986)). The statutorily mandated
standard precludes a de novo review of the factual
circumstances that substitutes the Court's findings for
those of the Commissioner. See, e.g., Vitek v.
Finch, 438 F.2d 1157 (4th Cir. 1971); Hicks v.
Gardner, 393 F.2d 299 (4th Cir. 1968). Accordingly,
“the court [must] uphold the [Commissioner's]
decision even should the court disagree with such decision as
long as it is supported by ‘substantial
evidence.'” Blalock v. Richardson, 483
F.2d 773, 775 (4th Cir. 1972). As noted by Judge Sobeloff in
Flack v. Cohen, 413 F.2d 278 (4th Cir. 1969),
“[f]rom 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.” Id. at 279.
“[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 at 1157-58.
filed objections to the Report and Recommendation on December
1, 2016. (ECF No. 35.) She objects to the Magistrate
Judge's recommendation concerning, inter alia,
the Appeals Council's decision to deny review of
Plaintiff's case based on the new evidence Plaintiff
submitted, and the ALJ's failure to properly analyze
Plaintiff's ability to perform past relevant work.
respectfully, these objections are the precise matter raised
to the Magistrate Judge and appropriately rejected in her
thorough thirty-five page Report. (See R&R at
17-34); see also Hendrix v. Colvin, 2013 WL 2407126,
at *4 (D.S.C. June 3, 2013); Jackson v. Astrue, 2011
WL 1883026 (W.D. N.C. May 17, 2011); Aldrich v.
Bock, 327 F.Supp.2d 743, 747 (E.D. Mich. 2004).
Nevertheless, the Court employs de novo review to
consider Plaintiff's specific arguments.
first asserts that the Appeals Council erred in denying
review of Plaintiff's case based on the new evidence she
submitted. (ECF No. 35 at 6.) She asserts that the submitted
evidence indeed relates back to the requisite time period and
that there is a reasonable possibility this evidence would
have changed the outcome. (Id.)
submitted to the Appeals Council with a request for review
must be considered in deciding whether to grant review
“if the additional evidence is (a) new, (b) material,
and (c) relates to the period on or before the date of the
ALJ's decision.” Wilkins v. Sec'y,
Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 953 F.2d 93,
95-96 (4th Cir. 1991) (en banc) (internal quotation marks and
citation omitted). Evidence is new “if it is not
duplicative or cumulative.” Id. at 96.
“Evidence is material if there is a reasonable
possibility that the new evidence would have changed the
outcome.” Id. “[P]ost-[ALJ decision]
medical evidence generally is admissible in an SSA disability
determination in such instances in which that evidence
permits an inference of linkage with the claimant's
pre-[ALJ decision] condition.” Bird v. Comm'r
of Soc. Sec. Admin., 699 F.3d 337, 341 (4th Cir. 2012)
(citation omitted). Nonetheless, evidence should not be given
retrospective consideration where there is no support for the
existence of impairments or the severity alleged prior to the
date of the ...