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Kinsey v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

March 23, 2018

Robin D. Kinsey, Plaintiff,
v.
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          ORDER

          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 Robin D. Kinsey's (“Plaintiff”) claim for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”). The record includes the report and recommendation (“Report”) of United States Magistrate Judge Jacquelyn D. Austin, 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 her Report, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the Court reverse the Commissioner's final decision pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and remand the case to the Commissioner for further administrative action. The Commissioner filed objections to the Report, and Plaintiff filed a response 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 adopts the Magistrate Judge's Report and overrules the Commissioner's objections.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on March 30, 2010, alleging disability beginning on December 30, 2009. Her application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), which was held on March 1, 2012. On April 26, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's claim. Plaintiff requested review, but the Appeals Council denied review on April 23, 2013, making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of judicial review. Plaintiff filed an action seeking judicial review on June 24, 2013, and on November 13, 2014, the Court remanded the case for further proceedings.

         On February 25, 2016, the ALJ held a subsequent hearing. On August 12, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision again finding that Plaintiff was not disabled. Plaintiff did not file exceptions with the Appeals Council and instead filed this action on November 18, 2016.

         Plaintiff was 46 years old on her application date and 50 years old on her date last insured. She completed high school and two years of college, and she has past relevant work performing secretarial and clerical work at NuTek Associates.

         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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