United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
PATRICK MICHAEL DUFFY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on United States Magistrate Judge
Mary Gordon Baker's Report and Recommendation (“R
& R”) (ECF No. 14). In her R & R, the
Magistrate Judge recommends that the Court affirm the Acting
Commissioner of Social Security's decision denying Darryl
Giles' claim for disability benefits. Giles objects to
the R & R. (ECF No. 16.) For the following reasons, the
Court overrules Giles' objections, adopts the R & R,
and affirms the Acting Commissioner's decision.
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). This Court must conduct a de novo review of any
portion of the R & R to which a timely, 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 receive more evidence or 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
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) determined
Giles' severe impairments included carpal tunnel
syndrome, osteoarthritis of the knees, hypertension,
Dupuytren's syndrome, and obesity. Giles contended that,
between the pain those impairments caused him and the
drowsiness and difficulty concentrating he experienced from
taking medication for that pain, he could not work. The ALJ
found the impairments prevented Giles from performing his
past job of meat cutter. However, the ALJ found Giles'
claims regarding the intensity, persistence, and limiting
effects of his symptoms were “not entirely
credible” because they were “inconsistent with
the medical evidence and his activities of daily
living.” (R., ECF No. 9-2, at 22.) The ALJ concluded
there were several jobs existing in significant numbers that
Giles could perform, even with the light-work restriction the
ALJ assigned. For that reason, the ALJ denied Giles'
asked the Commission's Appeals Council to review the
ALJ's decision. In that appeal, he submitted a letter
from Dr. Robert Fulmer, Giles' treating physician, that
post-dated the ALJ's decision. The Appeals Council made
the letter part of the record and took it into consideration.
However, it found the letter did not warrant changing the
ALJ's decision. The Council therefore declined to review
the ALJ's decision.
action, Giles contends that substantial evidence does not
support the ALJ's findings about his credibility and that
this case should be remanded so the ALJ can consider Dr.
Fulmer's letter. The Magistrate Judge disagreed with both
contentions. Giles now objects to portions of the Magistrate
Judge's analysis of both issues.
mentioned, the ALJ discounted Giles' complaints of pain,
drowsiness, and difficulty concentrating because, in the
ALJ's view, the record did not show those symptoms to be
as intense, persistent, or limiting as Giles claimed them to
be. Because the ALJ based that decision on the record's
medical evidence and evidence of Giles' daily activities,
the Magistrate Judge focused her substantial-evidence review
on those two types of evidence. She determined substantial
evidence in the record supports the ALJ's decision.
Giles' arguments on this issue consist of pointing to
pieces of evidence he contends show that his claims about his
conditions are credible. However, that there may be evidence
supporting Giles' position does not necessarily mean
there is not also substantial evidence supporting the
ALJ's contrary determination. The Magistrate Judge's
thorough examination of the record demonstrates that truth.
The Court therefore rejects those arguments without further
discussion. The Court now turns to Giles' remaining
arguments on this issue.
in reviewing the medical evidence for consistency with
Giles' complaints, the Magistrate Judge noted that Dr.
Fulmer apparently contradicted himself by completing a
physical capacity evaluation form in 2012 and then stating in
2014 that his office was not qualified to do such a thing.
Giles argues the Magistrate Judge erred in finding that
someone else's contradiction makes Giles' complaints
not credible. The Magistrate Judge never did such a thing;
Giles' argument misapprehends the context in which the
Magistrate Judge noted the contradiction. One of Giles'
arguments in this action is that the ALJ erroneously treated
Dr. Fulmer's opinions as inconsistent with his records.
The Magistrate Judge cited Dr. Fulmer's contradiction as
one of several pieces of evidence disproving Giles'
argument and supporting the ALJ's treatment of Dr.
Giles accuses the Magistrate Judge of improperly defending
the ALJ's credibility decision by creating post-hoc
rationales for it from evidence in the record. The Court
disagrees. The Magistrate Judge was performing her duty of
ascertaining whether substantial evidence supported the
ALJ's finding. Although some of the evidence she cited in
her R & R was not explicitly mentioned in the ALJ's
written opinion, it was not improper for the Magistrate Judge
to rely on that evidence. See Heeman v. Colvin, No.
2:13-cv-3607-TMC, 2015 WL 5474679, at *3 (D.S.C. Sept. 16,
2015) (“[W]here the magistrate judge . . . points to
additional evidence in the record supporting the ALJ's
opinion, the magistrate judge is not applying a post hoc
rationale. Rather, the magistrate judge is simply noting that
the substantial evidence relied upon by the ALJ is not
inconsistent with other evidence in the record.”
(citations omitted)); see also, e.g., White v.
Colvin, No. 6:13-cv-1935-BHH, 2015 WL 892932, at *4
(D.S.C. Mar. 3, 2015) (rejecting same argument as Giles makes
in concluding substantial evidence supported the ALJ's
finding that Giles' routine activities undermined
Giles' claims of the extent of his incapacity, the
Magistrate Judge cited Johnson v. Barnhart, 434 F.3d
650 (4th Cir. 2005). Giles contends his case is factually
unlike Johnson. The Court disagrees. In
Johnson, the Fourth Circuit held an ALJ logically
reasoned that the claimant's complaints of severe pain,
trouble concentrating, and being “doped up” from
medications were inconsistent with her activities, which
included attending church, reading, watching television,