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Wilson v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

March 21, 2018

Laura Wilson, Plaintiff,
v.
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          ORDER

          The Honorable Bruce H. Hendricks United States District Judge

         This is an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) seeking judicial review of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security's (“Commissioner”) final decision, which denied Plaintiff Laura Wilson's (“Plaintiff”) claims for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income (“SSI”). The record includes the report and recommendation (“Report”) of United States Magistrate Kevin F. McDonald, which was made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1)(B) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(a) (D.S.C.).

         In his Report, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the Court affirm the Commissioner's final decision denying benefits. Plaintiff filed objections to the Report, and the Commissioner filed a reply to those objections. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) (providing that a party may object, in writing, to a Magistrate Judge's Report within 14 days after being served a copy). For the reasons stated below, the Court respectfully declines to adopt the Magistrate Judge's Report and instead remands this case to the Commissioner for further proceedings.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI on January 23, 2014, alleging that she became unable to work on January 14, 2014. Her applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration, and she requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). A hearing was held on May 6, 2016, at which Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, appeared and testified. At the hearing, the ALJ also heard testimony from a vocational expert (“VE”). The ALJ issued a decision on June 17, 2016, concluding that Plaintiff was not disabled from her alleged disability onset date through the date of the decision.

         Plaintiff was 56 years old on the alleged disability onset date and 58 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. She has a bachelor's degree in nursing and worked as a nurse until her alleged disability onset date.

         STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         I. The Magistrate Judge's Report

         The Court conducts a de novo review to those portions of the Report to which a specific objection is made, and this Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendations contained in the Report. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Any written objection must specifically identify the portion of the Report to which the objection is made and the basis for the objection. Id.

         II. Judicial Review of a Final Decision

The federal judiciary plays a limited role in the administrative scheme as established by the Social Security Act. Section 205(g) of the Act provides that “[t]he 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). “Consequently, judicial review . . . of a final decision regarding disability benefits is limited to determining whether the findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether the correct law was applied.” Walls v. Barnhart, 296 F.3d 287, 290 (4th Cir. 2002). “Substantial evidence” is defined as:

evidence which a reasoning mind would accept as sufficient to support a particular conclusion. It consists of more than a mere scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less than a preponderance. If there is evidence to justify a refusal to direct a verdict were the case before a jury, then there is “substantial evidence.”

Shively v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 987, 989 (4th Cir. 1984) (quoting Laws v. Celebreeze, 368 F.2d 640, 642 (4th Cir. 1966)). In assessing whether substantial evidence exists, the reviewing court should not “undertake to re-weigh conflicting evidence, make credibility determinations, or substitute [its] judgment for that of” the agency. ...


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