United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson/Greenwood Division
PATRICK MICHAEL DUFFY, United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff John Crawford
Coulter's objections to the Magistrate Judge's report
and recommendation (“R & R”) (ECF Nos. 28
& 26). The Magistrate Judge recommends that the Court
affirm the Commissioner's final decision denying
Coulter's claim for social security disability benefits.
For the reasons stated herein, the Court overrules one
objection, sustains another, and remands to the agency.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court.
The R & R has no presumptive weight, and the
responsibility for making a final determination remains with
the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71
(1976). Parties may make written objections to the R & R
within fourteen days after being served with a copy of it. 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). This Court must conduct a de novo
review of any portion of the R & R to which a specific
objection is made, and the Court may accept, reject, or
modify the Magistrate Judge's findings and
recommendations in whole or in part. Id.
Additionally, the Court may recommit the matter to the
Magistrate Judge with instructions. Id. A
party's failure to object is taken as the party's
agreement with the Magistrate Judge's conclusions.
See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140 (1985). Absent a
timely, specific objection-or as to those portions of the R
& R to which no specific objection is made-this Court
“must ‘only satisfy itself that there is no clear
error on the face of the record in order to accept the
recommendation.'” Diamond v. Colonial Life
& Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir.
2005) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's
Coulter has raised two arguments in his challenge of the
Commissioner's decision. First, he argues the ALJ gave
improper weight to the opinions of two of his physicians.
Second, Coulter contends the ALJ improperly failed to
consider the combined effect of all of his impairments when
determining his residual functional capacity
(“RFC”). The Magistrate Judge found no merit to
either argument. Coulter's two objections to the R &
R correspond to his two stated grounds for seeking judicial
review. The Court addresses each seriatim.
The ALJ's Assessment of Coulter's Physicians'
record before the ALJ included opinions from two of
Coulter's physicians, Dr. David Rogers and Dr. Stephanie
Vanterpool. The ALJ assigned little weight to Dr. Rogers'
opinion regarding Coulter's upper extremities. As for Dr.
Vanterpool, the ALJ assigned significant weight to part of
her opinion about Coulter's work capabilities; however,
the ALJ found another portion of her opinion not credible.
Coulter challenged the ALJ's assessments of those
opinions, but the Magistrate Judge concluded the ALJ
appropriately weighed those opinions and explained his
assessment of each one.
now states that he objects to the Magistrate Judge's
conclusion regarding the ALJ's assessment of Dr.
Vanterpool's opinion. However, Coulter spends his objection
only arguing why he believes the ALJ erred-something
he already did in his briefs, which the Magistrate Judge
considered. Coulter does not identify errors he believes
the Magistrate Judge made. That is not an
appropriate objection. See, e.g., Weber v.
Aiken-Partain, No. 8:11-cv-2423-GRA, 2012 WL 489148, at
*2 (D.S.C. Feb. 15, 2012) (noting that objections merely
rehashing arguments raised to the magistrate are insufficient
to direct the court to a specific error in an R & R). The
Court therefore overrules Coulter's first objection.
Having carefully reviewed the R & R and the record, the
Court is satisfied that the Magistrate Judge made no clear
errors in her analysis of this issue. The Court therefore
adopts the portion of the R & R addressing Coulters'
The Combined Effects of Coulter's Impairments
as here, an ALJ determines that a claimant has multiple
impairments, the ALJ must consider the combined effects of
those impairments and must “adequately explain his or
her evaluation” of those combined effects. Walker
v. Bowen, 889 F.2d 47, 50 (4th Cir. 1989). The ALJ must
perform those tasks throughout the disability determination
process. See Arant v. Colvin, No.
2:14-cv-1539-MGL-MGB, 2015 WL 5785544, at *5 (D.S.C. Sept.
found that Coulter suffers severe impairments from ankylosing
spondylosis and Crohn's disease, as well as non-severe
impairments from gout, depression, attention-deficit
hyperactivity disorder, and alcohol abuse. Coulter claims
that when the ALJ determined Coulter's RFC, he failed to
consider the combined effects of those impairments and,
consequently, failed to explain his evaluation of them.
identification of Coulter's impairments, the ALJ found
that Coulter's three mental-health impairments, even in
combination, imposed only minimal limitations on
Coulter's ability to work. Then, in his step-three
analysis of whether Coulter's impairments met or equaled
any specific listed disabling impairment, the ALJ twice wrote
The undersigned [has] specifically considered the cumulative
effects of the impairments on [Coulter's] ability to
work. See Walker v. Bowen889 F.2d 47
(4th Cir. 1989). The undersigned noted that the
claimant's impairments caused him exertional, postural,
and environmental limitations. Nonetheless, the