United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division
ORDER ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND
AFFIRMING DEFENDANT BERRYHILL'S DECISION DENYING
GEIGER LEWIS J.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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. §§
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).
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).
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
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.
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  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[, ]'  “a valid verbal,
performance, or full scale IQ of 60 through 70"
(“Prong 2"), [and]  “a physical or other