United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Orangeburg Division
ORDER ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND
AFFIRMING DEFENDANT'S DENIAL OF PLAINTIFF'S CLAIM FOR
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). 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 claim for
DIB 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 January 10, 2018. ECF
No. 21. Plaintiff filed objections on January 24, 2018, ECF
No. 23, and Defendant replied on January 25, 2018, ECF No.
25. The Court has carefully reviewed Plaintiff's
objections but holds them to be meritless. Therefore, it will
enter judgment accordingly.
filed her application for DIB on January 14, 2013, asserting
her disability commenced on February 1, 2012. Plaintiff's
application was denied initially and upon reconsideration.
The administrative law judge (ALJ) conducted a hearing on
Plaintiff's application on May 6, 2015. On August 12,
2015, the ALJ issued a decision holding Plaintiff was not
disabled under the Social Security Act (the Act). The Appeals
Council subsequently denied Plaintiff's request for
review of the ALJ's decision, and Plaintiff appealed to
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.
Plaintiffs duty both to produce evidence and to 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).
objections primarily constitute a rehashing of the arguments
she presented in her initial brief, ECF No. 12, and her reply
brief, ECF No. 17. Plaintiff phrases her objection to the
Report as follows:
Objection 1 Opinion Evidence. The ALJ
rejected the opinions of [Plaintiff's] treating providers
without considering the consistency of their opinions with
one another. Where the ALJ improperly evaluates the opinion
evidence, is it proper for the Magistrate Judge to allow the
decision to stand?
ECF No. 23 at 1. The issue Plaintiff framed and addressed in
her brief in support of her appeal was:
Issue 1Opinion Evidence. The ALJ rejected
the opinions of [Plaintiff's] treating providers without
considering the consistency of their opinions with one
another. Where the ALJ improperly evaluates the opinion
evidence, has a legal error been committed that is not
ECF No. 12 at 17. Thus, Plaintiff's main objection to the
Report is substantively identical to the question discussed
in Plaintiff's brief, which the Magistrate Judge
thoroughly analyzed and rejected in the Report. The Court
agrees with the well-reasoned conclusions of the Magistrate
Judge for the reasons set forth in the Report, and, as stated
above, the Court will refrain from further discussing
Plaintiff's arguments in support of her ...