United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson/Greenwood Division
Timothy M. Cain, United States District Judge.
plaintiff, Kimberla Jean Williamson
(“Williamson”), brought this action pursuant to
the Social Security Act (“SSA”), 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), seeking judicial review
of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”),  denying her claim for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”). In accordance with 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(a),
D.S.C., this matter was referred to a magistrate judge for
pretrial handling. Now before this court is the magistrate
judge's Report and Recommendation (“Report”),
recommending that the court affirm the Commissioner's
decision. (ECF No. 17). In the Report, the magistrate judge
sets forth the relevant facts and legal standards, which are
incorporated herein by reference. Williamson filed objections
to the Report (ECF No. 19), and the Commissioner responded to
those objections (ECF No. 21). Accordingly, this matter is
now ripe for review.
April 8, 2013, Williamson filed applications for DIB and SSI,
alleging a disability onset date of August 7, 2012. (ECF No.
10-5 at 1-14). These claims were denied both initially and on
reconsideration by the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”). (ECF No. 10-3). Williamson then
requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) (ECF No. 10-4 at 17), and on February 4,
2015, ALJ Marshall D. Riley conducted a video hearing on
Williamson's claims for DIB and SSI (ECF No. 10-2 at
29-54). Williamson was represented by counsel at the hearing.
(ECF No. 10-2 at 29). On February 19, 2016, the ALJ issued an
opinion finding that Williamson was not disabled. (ECF No.
10-2 at 9-21).
decision, the ALJ found Williamson met the insured status
requirements under the Social Security Act through December
31, 2015, and that Williamson had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since August 7, 2012, the alleged onset date
of disability. (ECF No. 10-2 at 14). The ALJ further found
that Williamson suffered from the following severe
impairments: disorders of the spine, Restrictive Lung
Disease, obesity, and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, but found that
Williamson did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of the
listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
(ECF No. 10-2 at 14-15). Additionally, the ALJ calculated
Williamson's residual functional capacity and determined
that, though she would be unable to perform past relevant
work, there were jobs in significant numbers in the national
economy that she could perform. (ECF No. 10-2 at 15-19).
Williamson subsequently appealed to the Appeals Council, and
the Appeals Council denied her request for review of the
ALJ's decision. (ECF No. 10-2 at 2-4). Therefore, the
ALJ's decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner. This action followed.
federal judiciary has a limited role in the administrative
scheme established by the SSA. Section 405(g) of the Act
provides, “the findings of the Commissioner of Social
Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive . . . .” 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). “Substantial evidence has been defined . . . as
more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance.”
Thomas v. Celebrezze, 331 F.2d 541, 543 (4th Cir.
1964). This standard precludes a de novo review of the
factual circumstances that substitutes the court's
findings for those of the Commissioner. Vitek v.
Finch, 438 F.2d 1157 (4th Cir. 1971). Thus, in its
review, the court may not “undertake to re-weigh
conflicting evidence, make credibility determinations, or
substitute [its] own judgment for that of the
[Commissioner].” Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585,
589 (4th Cir. 1996).
“[f]rom this it does not follow . . . 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
agency.” Flack v. Cohen, 413 F.2d 278, 279
(4th Cir. 1969). Rather, “the 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 this conclusion is
rational.” Vitek, 438 F.2d at 1157-58.
magistrate judge filed a Report, recommending that the
decision of the Commissioner be affirmed. (ECF No. 17). In
her objections, Williamson stated that both the ALJ and the
magistrate judge ignored the fact that Williamson required a
cane to ambulate when they evaluated Williamson's
residual functional capacity. (ECF No. 19 at 11-12). The
court finds that the magistrate judge has fully addressed
Williamson's concerns regarding the cane and that this
objection does not add any new argument to Williamson's
earlier assertions; therefore, this is not a specific
objection to the Report. Furthermore, the court agrees with
the magistrate judge's analysis and determination on the
issue of the use of the cane, and, therefore, the objection
Williamson did file the following specific objections to the
Report: (1) that the both the ALJ and the magistrate judge
ignored the medical records of Dr. Parker Lilly, one of
Williamson's treating physicians; (2) that the ALJ
improperly disregarded the opinion of Certified Nurse
Practitioner Wright; and (3) that the ALJ improperly
discredited Plaintiff's testimony and the magistrate
judge's evaluation of Plaintiff's credibility was
internally inconsistent. (ECF No. 19). The court finds these
objections without merit for the reasons stated below, and,
therefore, overrules these objections.
Medical Records of Dr. Parker Lilly
argues that the medical records of Dr. Parker Lilly, one of
her treating physicians, has been “completely
disregarded, ignored, and approached as if imaginary.”
(ECF No. 19 at 3). Williamson states that both the ALJ and
the magistrate judge failed to acknowledge the existence of
these records and that the ALJ improperly failed to assign
these records any weight in his decision. (ECF No. 19 at 2).
However, Williamson's contention that the ALJ ignored
these records is wholly inaccurate. When describing
Williamson's medical history, the ALJ did not
specifically state which medical professional conducted each
of the various tests or made each of the specific diagnoses.
(ECF No. 10-2 at 14-19). However, the ALJ did cite to the
medical records of Dr. Lilly when describing Williamson's
medical history. Id. Specifically, the ALJ described
how in March 2013, Williamson was diagnosed with restrictive
lung disease, anemia, hypertension, and obesity; how she
followed up with her primary care physician after being
hospitalized and diagnosed with diabetes mellitus in April
2013; how she was treated for complained of leg cramps in May
2013; how she was diagnosed with extremity cramps, lumbar
stenosis, and obesity in May 2013; and how she was seen by a
physician for swollen and painful legs in August 2013. (ECF
No. 10-2 at 17). After discussing each of these facts, the
ALJ cited to the medical records of Dr. Parker Lilly.
Id. Additionally, the ALJ specifically stated that
Williamson “has a cane prescribed by Dr. Lilly”
but acknowledged that Williamson stated that she was
“unable to continue seeing Dr. Lilly because she [did]
not have insurance.” (ECF No. 10-2 at 16). Moreover,
the ALJ stated that he considered all of the medical evidence
in reaching his determinations. (ECF No. 10-2 at 16). Based
on this statement and the fact that the ALJ specifically
described various records of Dr. Lilly's, the court finds
that the ALJ did not ignore the medical records of Dr. Lilly,
and, therefore, overrules Williamson's objection.
further objects to the ALJ not assigning a weight to Dr.
Lilly's records. (ECF No. 19 at 3-4). In support of her
assertion that the ALJ must assign these records with an
appropriate weight, Williamson cites 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1527(c) and 416.927(c), which set forth how the Social
Security Administration considers medical opinions and what
weight the Administration should give the opinions in
considering claims for DIB and SSI. (ECF No. 19 at 3).
However, as the magistrate judge clearly noted, Dr. Lilly did
not offer a medical opinion regarding Plaintiff's
functional limitations. (ECF No. 17 at 22, n.12). Still,
Williamson asserts that because Dr. Lilly's records
indicate diagnoses of various physical ailments, namely
restrictive lung disease and muscle weakness, that Dr.
Lilly's records are entitled to ...