United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division
ORDER ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND
AFFIRMING DEFENDANT'S FINAL DECISION DENYING
GEIGER LEWIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
a Social Security appeal in which Plaintiff David Alan
Manning seeks judicial review of the final decision of
Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill denying his claims for
disability insurance benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security
Income (SSI). The matter is before the Court for review of
the Report and Recommendation (Report) of the United States
Magistrate Judge suggesting Berryhill's final decision
denying Manning's DIB and SSI claims be affirmed.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court.
The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The
responsibility to make a final determination remains with the
Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270 (1976).
The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of
those portions of the Report to which specific objection is
made, and the Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole
or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge or
recommit the matter with instructions. 28 U.S.C. §
Magistrate Judge filed the Report on March 22, 2018, Manning
filed his objections on April 18, 2018, and Berryhill filed
her reply on May 2, 2018. The Court has reviewed the
objections, but holds them to be without merit. Therefore, it
will enter judgment accordingly.
Manning's second Social Security disability appeal before
this Court. As it pertains to this case, Manning filed his
application for DIB and SSI on July 1, 2013. He contends his
disability, which he alleges commenced on May 22, 2012, is
caused by persistent neuropathic pain, incontinence, chronic
intractable testicular pain, anxiety, mood disorder due to
medical condition, panic attacks, obsessive compulsive
disorder, delusional disorder, and catatonic episodes.
denied Manning's application initially and upon
reconsideration. Manning then requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which the ALJ conducted on
November 5, 2015. On December 3, 2015, the ALJ issued a
decision denying Manning's claims. The Appeals Council
denied Manning's request for review of the ALJ's
decision. Manning then filed an action for judicial review
with this Court on April 20, 2017.
Agency has established a five-step sequential evaluation
process for determining if a person is disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a). The five steps are: (1)
whether the claimant is currently engaging in substantial
gainful activity; (2) whether the claimant has a medically
determinable severe impairment(s); (3) whether such
impairment(s) meets or equals an impairment set forth in the
Listings; (4) whether the impairment(s) prevents the claimant
from returning to his past relevant work; and, if so, (5)
whether the claimant is able to perform other work as it
exists in the national economy. 20 C.F.R. §§
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), a district court is required to
conduct a de novo review of those portions of the Magistrate
Judge's Report to which a specific objection has been
made. The Court need not conduct a de novo review, however,
“when a party makes general and conclusory objections
that do not direct the court to a specific error in the
[Magistrate Judge's] proposed findings and
recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d
44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b).
the plaintiff's duty both to produce evidence and prove
he is disabled under the Act. See Pass v. Chater, 65
F.3d 1200, 1203 (4th Cir. 1995). Nevertheless, the ALJ is to
develop the record and when he “fails in his duty to
fully inquire into the issues necessary for adequate
development of the record, and such failure is prejudicial to
the claimant, the case should be remanded.” Marsh
v. Harris, 632 F.2d 296, 300 (4th Cir. 1980).
also the task of the ALJ, not this Court, to make findings of
fact and resolve conflicts in the evidence. Hays v.
Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). “It
is not within the province of this [C]ourt to determine the
weight of the evidence; nor is it [the Court's] function
to substitute [its] judgment for that of [the defendant] if
[the] decision is supported by substantial evidence.”
Laws v. Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640, 642 (4th Cir.
1966). In other words, the Court “must sustain the
ALJ's decision, even if [it] disagree[s] with it,
provided the determination is supported by substantial
evidence.” Smith v. Chater, 99 F.3d 635, 638
(4th Cir. 1996). Under the substantial evidence standard, the
Court must view the entire record as a whole. See Steurer
v. Bowen, 815 F.2d, 1249, 1250 (8th Cir. 1987).
ALJs must sufficiently explain the reasons for their rulings
to allow this Court to provide meaningful review, Radford
v. Colvin, 734 F.3d 288, 296 (4th Cir. 2013), “the
ALJ is not required to address every piece of evidence[;]
[instead, ] he must . . . build an accurate and logical
bridge from the evidence to his conclusion.”
Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 872 (7th Cir. 2000)
(citations omitted). The Court's “general practice,
which [it] see[s] no reason to depart from here, is to take a
lower tribunal at its word when it declares that it has
considered a matter.” Hackett v. Barnhart, 395
F.3d 1168, 1173 (10th Cir.2005).
substantial evidence standard presupposes a zone of choice
within which the decisionmakers can go either way, without
interference by the courts. An administrative decision is not
subject to reversal merely because substantial evidence would
have supported an opposite decision.” Clarke v.
Bowen, 843 F.2d 271, 272-73 (8th Cir. 1988) (citations
omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted) (alteration
omitted). Put differently, if the ALJ's
“dispositive factual findings are supported by
substantial evidence, they must be affirmed, even in cases
where contrary findings of an ALJ might also be so
supported.” Kellough v. Heckler, 785 F.2d
1147, 1149 (4th Cir. 1986).
fails to lodge any specific objections to the Report.
Instead, he presents four “points”: First,
Manning states: “When taken together, substantial
evidence does not support the ALJ's rejection of the
evidence regarding [his] multiple impairments.”
Objections 2. Second, according to Manning, “[t]he ALJ
erred in failing to specify in her residual functional
capacity Plaintiff's need to alternate sitting and
standing.” Objections 3. Third, Manning contends
“[t]he ALJ committed reversible error by according more
weight to the opinion of non-examining state agency
consultants than to Plaintiff's treating
physician.” Objections 3. And fourth, Manning argues
“[t]he ALJ erred in failing to investigate all possible
reasons for Plaintiff's alleged period of noncompliance
with prescribed treatment.” Objections 4.
Manning's points directs the Court to any alleged errors
in the Report. Instead, they are nothing more than arguments
Manning has already made to the Magistrate Judge. But
objections are meant to point to specific alleged errors made
by the Magistrate Judge, not to provide a proverbial second
bite at the apple to the dissatisfied litigant. Because the
Magistrate Judge has already considered and rejected
Manning's second, third, and fourth arguments, and the
Court agrees ...