United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Aiken Division
Stephen J. Anderson, Plaintiff,
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendants.
C. Coggins, United States District Judge.
brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),
seeking judicial review of a final decision on the
Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”)
denying his claim for Disability Insurance Benefits and
Supplemental Security Income under the Social Security Act.
In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil
Rule 73.02(B)(2), (D.S.C.), this matter was referred to
United States Magistrate Judge Shiva V. Hodges for pre-trial
proceedings and a Report and Recommendation
(“Report”). On February 12, 2018, the Magistrate
Judge issued a Report recommending that the
Commissioner's decision be affirmed. ECF No. 18. On
February 16, 2018, Plaintiff filed objections to the Report.
ECF No. 19. The Commissioner filed a Reply on February 22,
2018. For the reasons stated below, the Court adopts the
Report and affirms the decision of the Commissioner.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court.
The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the
responsibility to make a final determination remains with the
Court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976).
The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of
any portion of the Report of the Magistrate Judge to which a
specific objection is made. The Court may accept, reject, or
modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation made by the
Magistrate Judge or recommit the matter to the Magistrate
Judge with instructions. See U.S.C. § 636(b).
The Court will review the Report only for clear error in the
absence of an objection. See Diamond v. Colonial Life
& Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir.
2005) (stating that “in the absence of timely filed
objection, a district court need not conduct a de
novo review, but instead must only satisfy itself that
there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to
accept the recommendation.” (citation omitted)).
role of the federal judiciary in the administrative scheme
established by the Social Security Act (“the
Act”) is a limited one. Section 205(g) of the Act
provides, “[t]he findings of the Secretary as to any
fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be
conclusive . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
“Substantial evidence has been defined innumerable
times as more than a scintilla, but less than
preponderance.” Thomas v. Celebreeze, 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). The court must
uphold the Commissioner's decision as long as it was
supported by substantial evidence and reached through the
application of the correct legal standard. Johnson v.
Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650 (4th Cir. 2005). “From this
it does not follow, however, 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
action.” Flack v. Cohen, 413 F.2d 278, 279
(4th Cir. 1969). “[T]he 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 his conclusion is
rational.” Vitek, 438 F.2d at 1157-58.
applied for DIB and SSI on August 15, 2013, alleging
disability as of February 1, 2013. Plaintiff's
applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration.
On January 21, 2016, a hearing was held before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). The ALJ denied
Plaintiff's claims in a decision dated June 30, 2016,
finding that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of
the Act. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review of the ALJ's decision, making the
determination of the ALJ the final decision of the
Commissioner. Plaintiff filed this action on August 10, 2017.
Magistrate Judge recommends that the Court affirm the
Commissioner's decision because it is supported by
substantial evidence and the proper legal standards were
applied. Plaintiff objects to the Report and argues that the
Magistrate erred in finding that the ALJ ‘s decision
did not exclusively rely on objective medical evidence.
Plaintiff also objects to the Report because Plaintiff argues
that the Magistrate erred in applying a deferential standard
to an error of law.
argues the Magistrate erred in finding the ALJ properly
considered relevant evidence, beyond objective medical
evidence, in considering Plaintiff's objective
allegations. However, the Magistrate noted in the Report that
the ALJ had considered the factors described in 20 C.F.R.
§404.1529(c) and § 416.929(c) and SSR 16-3p along
with the objective medical evidence. The ALJ specifically
stated that he considered Plaintiff's activities of daily
living and the opinion evidence and concluded that these
factors, combined with the objective medical evidence, did
not support Plaintiff's allegations of disabling symptoms
and limitations. Accordingly, there is substantial evidence
to support the ALJ's finding.
next argues that the Magistrate applied a deferential
standard to the ALJ's alleged failure to apply the proper
legal standard in his assessment of the limiting effects of
Plaintiff's pain. Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ's
inclusion of the phrase “clinical correlation of
objective findings” amounts to the applications of an
improper legal standard because “clinical correlation
of objective findings” are not required by the
regulations. However, the Report does not indicate that the
Magistrate applied a deferential standard to the ALJ's
application of the law. The Magistrate provides a proper
recitation of the applicable law and concludes that the ALJ
considered the required evidence, as explained above. Upon
review of the Report, the record, and the relevant caselaw,
the Court agrees that substantial evidence supports the
ALJ's credibility determination.
reasons set forth above, the Court adopts the Report and
Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge and ...