United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division
ORDER ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND
AFFIRMING DEFENDANT'S FINAL DECISION DENYING
GEIGER LEWIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a Social Security appeal in which Plaintiff seeks judicial
review of the final decision of Defendant denying her claim
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 Defendant's final
decision denying Plaintiffs claims be affirmed.
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 obj ection 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 December 1, 2017,
Plaintiff filed her objections on December 21, 2017, and
Defendant filed her reply on January 4, 2018. The Court has
reviewed Plaintiffs objections, but holds them to be without
merit. Therefore, it will enter judgment accordingly.
filed her application for DIB May 20, 2013, and her
application for SSI on December 1, 2013. She contends her
disability commenced on April 30, 2012. Defendant denied
Plaintiffs application initially and upon reconsideration.
Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an Administrative
Law Judge (ALJ), which the ALJ conducted on February 6, 2015.
On Marchl7, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision holding Plaintiff
was not disabled under the Social Security Act. The Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff s request for review of the
ALJ's decision. Plaintiff then filed an action for
judicial review with this Court.
Agency has established a five-step sequential evaluation
process for determining if 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 impairments); (3) whether such
impairments) meets or equals an impairment set forth in the
Listings; (4) whether the impairments) 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. §§
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.
Plaintiffs duty both to produce evidence and prove he is
disabled under the Act. See Pass v. Chater, 65 F.3d
1200, 1203 (4th Cir. 1995). Nevertheless, the ALJ is to
develop the record and when he "fails in his duty to
fully inquire into the issues necessary for adequate
development of the record, and such failure is prejudicial to
the claimant, the case should be remanded." Marsh v.
Harris, 632 F.2d 296, 300 (4th Cir. 1980).
also the task of the ALJ, not this Court, to make findings of
fact and resolve conflicts in the evidence. Hays v.
Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). "It
is not within the province of this [C]ourt to determine the
weight of the evidence; nor is it [the Court's] function
to substitute [its] judgmentforthat of [Defendant] if his
decisionis supportedby substantial evidence." Laws
v. Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640, 642 (4th Cir. 1966). In
other words, 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).
Under the substantial evidence standard, the Court must view
the entire record as a whole. See Steurer v. Bowen,
Sl5V.2d, 1249, 1250 (8th Cir. 1987).
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
presents two specific objections to the Report. First,
Plaintiff "objects to the Magistrate [Judge]'s
[suggestion] the ALJ did not err in dismissing the opinions
of her treating physician, Dr. Christopher Wimberly."
Objections 1. The Court is unpersuaded.
states, "the ALJ did not claim that Dr. Wimberly's
opinions were inaccurate, not credible, or not consistent
with the record. He simply asserted that he had sufficiently
considered Dr. Wimberly's opinions and that his [residual
functional capacity (RFC)] that [Plaintiff] could perform low
stress work, with some additional limitations, was consistent
with those opinions." Id. at 3. According to
Plaintiff, "[t]his is not a correct interpretation of
Dr. Wimberly's opinions; nor does the RFC adequately deal
with [Plaintiffs] limitations." Idat 3-4.
beyond dispute Dr. Wimberly is Plaintiffs treating physician.
According to 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(d)(2) &
416.927(d)(2), a treating source's opinion on issues of
the nature and severity of the impairments will be given
controlling weight when well supported by medically
acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and
when the opinion is consistent with the other substantial
evidence in the record. Conversely, however, it follows
"if a physician's opinion is not supported by
clinical evidence or if it is inconsistent with other
substantial evidence, it should be accorded significantly
less weight." Craig v, Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 590
(4th Cir. 1996). The more consistent the opinion is with the
record as a whole, the more weight the ALJ will give to it.
See 20 C.F.R§ 404.1527(d)(4) (1998).
notes in her objections at least four times when Dr. Wimberly
suggests she is a candidate for disability benefits: "he
recommended she apply for disability[, ]" id.
at 3, "he advised her to continue with the disability
process[, ]" id., "[h]e repeated this
advice[, ]" id., and "Dr. Wimberly yet
again opined that [Plaintiff] had ...