United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division
ORDER AND OPINION
matter is before the court pursuant to Magistrate Kevin F.
McDonald's Report and Recommendation
(“Report”), recommending that the
Commissioner's decision be affirmed and Plaintiff Linda
Rachels' claims for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income benefits be denied. (ECF No.
22.) For the reasons set forth below, the court
ACCEPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
court concludes upon its own careful review of the record
that the factual and procedural summation in the Report (ECF
No. 22) is accurate; therefore, the court adopts this summary
as its own. The court will only recite herein procedures
pertinent to the court's review of the Report
(id.). On January 24, 2018, the Magistrate Judge
filed the Report (id.), and on February 7, 2018,
Plaintiff timely filed an objection (ECF No. 24). On February
15, 2018, the Commissioner replied to Plaintiff's
Objection (ECF No. 26).
court has jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) which gives the court jurisdiction over a
review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Magistrate Judge's Report is made in accordance with 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civil Rule
73.02(B)(2)(a) for the District of South Carolina. The
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court,
which has no presumptive weight. The responsibility to make a
final determination remains with this court. See Mathews
v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The court is
charged with making a de novo determination of those
portions of the Report to which specific objections are made.
parties were advised of their rights to file objections to
the Report. (ECF No. 22.) On February 7, 2018, Plaintiff
filed an objection. (ECF No. 24.) In his Objection, Plaintiff
asserts that: (1) the Magistrate Judge erred in his
evaluation of the opinion of Plaintiff's counselor, Ms.
Brooks-Bacote; (2) the Magistrate Judge erred in determining
the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) accounted
for all of Plaintiff's mental functional limitations in
the ALJ's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) assessment; (3) the Magistrate Judge
erred in his evaluation of Plaintiff's subjective
complaints; and (4) the Magistrate Judge erred in finding
that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's RFC
Plaintiff's first assertion, the court finds that the
Magistrate Judge correctly found that the ALJ's
evaluation of Ms. Brooks-Bacote's opinion was supported
by substantial evidence. The court agrees with the Magistrate
Judge that the ALJ appropriately determined that, under the
regulations that are controlling in this matter, Ms.
Brooks-Bacote is not an acceptable medical source. (ECF No.
22 at 17.) For claims like Plaintiff's, filed before
March 27, 2017, the regulations define “acceptable
medical sources” as licensed physicians, psychologists,
optometrists, podiatrists, and qualified speech-language
pathologists. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1502(a)(1)-(5),
416.902(a)(1)-(5). Further, Ms. Brooks-Bacote's name
appears on only four documents in the entire record; three of
those are progress summaries for particular periods of time
and the other document is a plan of care. (ECF No. 22 at 18.)
Moreover, as the ALJ acknowledged, the language of Ms.
Brooks-Bacote's assessment suggests that she based her
statements primarily on the assertions made by Plaintiff and
not clinical findings. (Id.) In addition, the
Magistrate Judge aptly relied on the ALJ's finding that
the severity of the limitations Ms. Brooks-Bacote opined was
not supported by the findings of other sources treating
Plaintiff at Aiken Barnwell Mental Health. (Id.)
the court finds that the Magistrate Judge appropriately
determined that the ALJ's assessment of Plaintiff's
subjective complaints was supported by substantial evidence.
With regard to the analysis of a claimant's subjective
complaints, the Fourth Circuit has stated as follows:
[T]he determination of whether a person is disabled by pain
or other symptoms is a two-step process. First, there must be
objective medical evidence showing the existence of a medical
impairment(s) which results from anatomical, physiological,
or psychological abnormalities and which could reasonably be
expected to produce the pain or other symptoms alleged . . .
It is only after a claimant has met her threshold obligation
of showing by objective medical evidence a medical impairment
reasonably likely to cause the pain claimed, that the
intensity and persistence of the claimant's pain, and the
extent to which it affects her ability to work, must be
Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 594-95 (4th Cir.
a claimant's symptoms, including pain, are considered to
diminish his capacity to work only to the extent that the
alleged functional limitations are reasonably consistent with
objective medical evidence and other evidence. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404, 1529(c)(4), 416.929(c)(4). The Magistrate
Judge properly concurred with the ALJ's determination
that, while Plaintiff's medically determinable
impairments could reasonably be expected to cause the alleged
symptoms, her statements concerning the intensity,
persistence, and limiting effects of the symptoms were
“not entirely consistent with the medical evidence and
other evidence in the record.” (ECF No. 22 at 22.)
Notably, although the ALJ found Plaintiff's subjective
complaints as ...