United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Orangeburg Division
OPINION AND ORDER
CAMERON MCGOWAN CURRIE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
this action, Plaintiff seeks judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his
claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”).
Plaintiff appealed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The
matter is currently before the court for review of the Report
and Recommendation (“Report”) of Magistrate Judge
Kaymani D. West, made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rules 73.02(b)(2)(a) and 83.VII.02, et
Report, filed April 13, 2018, recommends the decision of the
Commissioner be affirmed. ECF No. 22. On April 26, 2018,
Plaintiff filed objections to the Report. ECF No. 24. On May
11, 2018, the Commissioner filed a response to
Plaintiff's objections. ECF No. 26. 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. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (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 to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1). The court reviews 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 a 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.'”) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
72 advisory committee's note).
role of the federal judiciary in the administrative scheme
established by the Social Security 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). 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).
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). “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. However, the
court does not “reweigh conflicting evidence, make
credibility determinations, or substitute [its] judgment for
that of the ALJ.” Johnson, 434 F.3d at 653.
“Where conflicting evidence allows reasonable minds to
differ as to whether a claimant is disabled, the
responsibility for that decision falls on the ALJ.”
applied for DIB on September 23, 2013, alleging disability as
of March 17, 2011 due to lower back pain, shoulder pain, neck
pain, high blood pressure, insomnia, and anxiety.
at 210. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and
upon reconsideration. On November 19, 2015, a hearing was
held before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).
On March 2, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision, finding
Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act from
the alleged onset date through the date of decision.
Plaintiff requested review by the Appeals Council, which was
denied, making the determination of the ALJ the final
decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff filed this action
March 13, 2017. ECF No. 1.
Magistrate Judge recommends the court affirm the
Commissioner's decision. Plaintiff objects to the Report,
arguing: (1) substantial evidence does not support the
ALJ's credibility determination; (2) the ALJ erred in
over-assessing Plaintiff's residual functional capacity;
and (3) the ALJ failed to consider or discuss the vocational
consequences of Plaintiff's pain. ECF No. 24. The
Commissioner argues Plaintiff's objections essentially
rehash arguments made in her brief before the Magistrate
Judge. ECF No. 26.
first argues the ALJ did not “build an accurate and
logical bridge from the evidence” to his conclusion
regarding Plaintiff's credibility when he found Plaintiff
only partially credible. ECF No. 24 at 1. He contends the ALJ
failed to consider Plaintiff's testimony regarding
activities of daily living in context of his pain due to the
activities. Therefore, Plaintiff argues, substantial evidence
does not support the ALJ's credibility determination.
Id. at 2.
it is clear the ALJ considered Plaintiff's testimony
regarding his limitations and pain during and after
activities of daily living. ECF No. 7-2 at 29, 39. He cites
testimony from Plaintiff noting he “can comfortably
lift 25-35 pounds, ” does yard work, and walks his dog
up to a mile. Id. at 47. The ALJ found
Plaintiff's “subjective complaints are not fully
credible . . . [a]lthough the claimant's subjective
complaints may have some merit, the totality of the
supporting medical evidence does not provide clinical
correlation of his symptomology to the degree of debility
alleged with objective findings on examination.”
Id. at 46.
noted by the Magistrate Judge, this court does not perform
its own credibility determination, but determines whether the
evidence is sufficient to support the ALJ's conclusions.
While Plaintiff testified his activities of daily living
cause pain and other symptoms, and that he is in
“constant” pain in his lower back, the ALJ noted
the medical records show mainly conservative treatment and
the objective findings are not entirely consistent with the
level of constant pain Plaintiff describes. As these