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.

Larkin v. Berryhill

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

July 11, 2018

LORRAINE SYLVIA LARKIN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND AFFIRMING DEFENDANT BERRYHILL'S DECISION DENYING BENEFITS

          MARY GEIGER LEWIS J.

         This is a Social Security appeal in which Plaintiff Lorraine Sylvia Larkin seeks judicial review of the final decision of Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill denying her claim 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 Larkin's claims be affirmed.

         The 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. § 636(b)(1).

         The Magistrate Judge filed the Report on May 30, 2018, Larkin filed her objections on June 27, 2018, and Berryhill filed her reply on June 29, 2018. The Court has reviewed the objections, but holds them to be without merit. Therefore, it will enter judgment accordingly.

         On December 13, 2013, Larkin filed her applications for DIB and SSI. She contends her disability commenced on January 12, 2013. Berryhill denied Larkin's application initially and upon reconsideration. Larkin then requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which the ALJ conducted on February 23, 2016.

         On March 14, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision holding Larkin did not have a disability under the Social Security Act. Larkin then filed this action for judicial review with the Court.

         Disability is defined as the “inability to do any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than [twelve] months.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505(a), 416.905(a). The 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. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(I)-(v), 416.920(a)(4)(I)-(v).

         Under 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).

         It is 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).

         It is 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).

         Although ALJ 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).

         “[T]he 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). “The fact that the record as a whole might support an inconsistent conclusion is immaterial[.]” Blalock v. Richardson Eyeglasses, 483 F.2d 773, 775 (4th Cir. 1972) (footnotes omitted).

         Larkin lodges just one objection to the Report: the Magistrate Judge's purported “uncritical acceptance of the ALJ's finding that she does not meet the Listing because of her ‘high level of adaptive functioning.'” Objections 1 (quoting A.R. 18). According to Larkin, “[t]his finding is counter to both the facts of the case and the clear precedents set in this District and this Circuit.” Larkin breaks this objection down into several sub-parts, which the Court will address below.

         Larkin's objection centers around whether the ALJ properly applied Listing 12.05C. The Fourth Circuit has summarized the terms of Listing 12.05C in effect at the time the ALJ rendered her decision this way: “Listing [12.05C) requires [1] a showing of ‘deficits in adaptive functioning initially manifested during the developmental period; i.e., the evidence demonstrates or supports onset of the impairment before age 22[, ]' [2] “a valid verbal, performance, or full scale IQ of 60 through 70" (“Prong 2"), [and] [3] “a physical or other ...


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.