Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Butler v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division

March 30, 2018

Jimmy Butler, Plaintiff,
v.
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, [1] Defendant.

          ORDER AND OPINION

         This matter is before the court upon review of the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (“Report”) (ECF No. 21), recommending that the Commissioner's Decision be affirmed. For the reasons stated below, the court ACCEPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report (ECF No. 21).

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The court concludes upon its own careful review of the record that the factual and procedural summation in the Report (ECF No. 21) is accurate, and the court adopts this summary as its own. The court will only recite herein procedures pertinent to the court's review of the Report (ECF No. 21). On September 26, 2017, Magistrate Judge Thomas E. Rogers, III filed the Report (ECF No. 21), and on October 20, 2017, Plaintiff timely filed an Objection (ECF No. 26).[2]On October 30, 2017, the Commissioner replied. (ECF No. 29.)

         II. JURISDICTION

         The 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 Security.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         The 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. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2)-(3). The court does not need to conduct a de novo review of objections presented in the form of “[complete restatements] of arguments already made, . . . as these objections never cite specific conclusions of the [Report] that are erroneous.” Smith v. City of N. Charleston, 401 F.Supp.2d 530, 533 (D.S.C. 2005).[3]

         “Although this court may review parts of the Magistrate Judge's [Report] de novo, judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision regarding disability benefits ‘is limited to determining whether the findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether the correct law was applied.'” Sherby v. Astrue, 767 F.Supp.2d 592, 594 (D.S.C. 2010) (citing Walls v. Barnhart, 296 F.3d 287, 290 (4th Cir. 2002)). “[I]t is not within the province of a reviewing court to determine the weight of the evidence, nor is it the court's function to substitute its judgment for that of the Secretary if h[er] decision is supported by substantial evidence.” Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 405(g), the court may affirm, modify, or reverse the Commissioner's decision, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing.

         IV. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff has stated two (2) objections. Plaintiff's first objection is in regard to the ALJ's weighing of Dr. McLoughlin's opinion evidence. Plaintiff's second objection is in regard to whether the Appeals Council properly evaluated new and material evidence, and whether the court can assess new evidence.

         Plaintiff's first objection is framed as a question, “[w]here the ALJ improperly ignores the opinion evidence [of Dr. McLoughlin], is it proper for the Magistrate Judge to allow the decision to stand?” (ECF No. 26 at 1.) However, Plaintiff's assertions in regard to this objection are restatements of arguments that he made in his initial Brief (ECF No. 14) or his Response Brief (ECF No. 17).[4] For this reason, the court will only address Plaintiff's second objection.

         Plaintiff's second objection is also presented as a question, “[w]here there is new and material evidence submitted at the Appeals Council, and where that evidence might have affected the findings of the fact-finder, [is] it proper for the Magistrate Judge to allow the decision to stand?” Plaintiff asserts that the Magistrate Judge is mistaken in finding that the Appeals Council made no error in evaluating the new and material evidence (Dr. McLoughlin's narrative note (Tr. 344)), and that this case should be remanded. (ECF No. 26 at 9-10.)

         In Plaintiff's Response Brief, he asserted that “. . . greater evidentiary support [in the form of Dr. McLoughlin's narrative note] is new and material evidence that requires remand under Meyer [v. Astrue, 662 F.3d 700 (4th Cir. 2011)].” (ECF No. 17 at 15.) Plaintiff also asserted that Dr. McLoughlin's narrative note is not duplicative. (ECF No. 17 at 12.) The Magistrate Judge took these arguments into consideration and found that Dr. McLoughlin's note was not new because it was “cumulative” and “duplicative, ” and that it would not be material. (ECF No. 21 at 33.) Therefore, the Magistrate Judge already addressed these arguments. However, the court finds that Plaintiff specifically objects to the Magistrate Judge making an assessment regarding the new evidence, given that “[a]ssessing the probative value of competing evidence is quintessentially the role of the fact finder” and the court “cannot undertake it in the first instance.” (ECF No. 26 at 10.)

         Reviewing courts are limited to determining whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether the correct law was applied. Sherby, 767 F.Supp. at 594. Reviewing courts also do ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.