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Pack v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

October 16, 2018

Donald Pack, Plaintiff,
v.
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          HONORABLE BRUCE H. HENDRICKS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) seeking judicial review of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security's (“Commissioner”) final decision, which denied Plaintiff Donald Pack's (“Plaintiff”) claim for disability benefits. The record includes the report and recommendation (“Report”) of United States Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant, which was made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1)(B) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(a) (D.S.C.).

         In his Report, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the Court reverse the Commissioner's final decision pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and remand the case to the Commissioner for reevaluation and further administrative action. The Commissioner filed objections to the Report, and Plaintiff filed a response to those objections. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) (providing that a party may object, in writing, to a Magistrate Judge's Report within 14 days after being served a copy). For the reasons stated below, the Court adopts the Magistrate Judge's Report and overrules the Commissioner's objections.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income on December 31, 2013, and January 14, 2014, respectively, alleging a disability onset date of July 15, 2010, due to schizoaffective disorder, panic/anxiety disorder, fibromyalgia, chronic neck pain, and chronic pain in the right leg. Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), which was held on June 3, 2016, and at chiwh a medical expert, Richard Anderson, Ph.D., testified. A subsequent hearing was held on February 2, 2016, and on July 26, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's claims. Plaintiff requested review, which was denied by the Appeals Council, making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of judicial review. Plaintiff filed this action seeking judicial review on August 25, 2017.

         STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         I. The Magistrate Judge's Report

         The Court conducts a de novo review to those portions of the Report to which a specific objection is made, and this Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendations contained in the Report. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Any written objection must specifically identify the portion of the Report to which the objection is made and the basis for the objection. Id.

         II. Judicial Review of a Final Decision

         The federal judiciary plays a limited role in the administrative scheme as established by the Social Security Act. Section 205(g) of the Act provides that “[t]he findings of the Commissioner of Social Security, as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “Consequently, judicial review . . . of a final decision regarding disability benefits is limited to determining whether the findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether the correct law was applied.” Walls v. Barnhart, 296 F.3d 287, 290 (4th Cir. 2002). “Substantial evidence” is defined as:

evidence which a reasoning mind would accept as sufficient to support a particular conclusion. It consists of more than a mere scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less than a preponderance. If there is evidence to justify a refusal to direct a verdict were the case before a jury, then there is “substantial evidence.”

Shively v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 987, 989 (4th Cir. 1984) (quoting Laws v. Celebreeze, 368 F.2d 640, 642 (4th Cir. 1966)). In assessing whether substantial evidence exists, the reviewing court should not “undertake to re-weigh conflicting evidence, make credibility determinations, or substitute [its] judgment for that of” the agency. Mastro v. Apfel, 270 F.3d 171, 176 (4th Cir. 2001) (alteration in original).

         DISCUSSION

         I. The ...


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