United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
AMENDED ORDER ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
AND AFFIRMING DEFENDANT'S DENIAL OF PLAINTIFF'S CLAIM
GEIGER LEWIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a Social Security appeal in which Plaintiff seeks judicial
review of the final decision of Defendant denying his claim
for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Plaintiff is
proceeding pro se. The matter is before the Court for review
of the Report and Recommendation (Report) of the United
States Magistrate Judge suggesting to the Court
Defendant's decision denying Plaintiff's claim for
SSI be affirmed. The Report was made in accordance with 28
U.S.C. § 636 and Local Civil Rule 73.02 for the District
of South Carolina.
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. §
document filed pro se is ‘to be liberally
construed.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S.
89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S.
97, 106 (1976)). Courts are not, however, required to
“conjure up questions never squarely presented to
them” or seek out arguments for a party. Beaudett
v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).
Magistrate Judge filed the Report on July 31, 2018. ECF No.
29. Plaintiff failed to timely file objections to the Report,
and the Court entered an Order adopting the Report on August
21, 2018, ECF No. 32. On August 29, 2018, the Clerk of Court
received a motion for reconsideration from Plaintiff. ECF No.
35. In his motion, Plaintiff first claims he timely mailed
his objections to the Report. Id. at 1. Plaintiff
then asserts objections to the Report. Id. at 2-3.
In an abundance of caution, the Court construes
Plaintiff's motion as objections to the Report. The Court
has carefully reviewed Plaintiff's objections but holds
them to be without merit. Therefore, it will enter judgment
filed his application for SSI on May 31, 2012.
Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration. The administrative law judge (ALJ) conducted
a hearing on Plaintiff's application on February 11,
2016. On March 31, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision holding
Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act (the
Act). The Appeals Council subsequently denied Plaintiff's
request for review of the ALJ's decision; therefore,
Plaintiff filed suit with this Court.
Social Security Administration has established a five-step
sequential evaluation process for determining whether 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). If a decision as to disability can be
made at any step, the analysis ends there without proceeding
to the next step. 20 C.F.R. '' 404.1520(a)(4),
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).
Thus, the Court will address each specific objection to the
Report in turn. As provided above, however, the Court need
not-and will not-address any of Plaintiff's arguments
that fail to point the Court to alleged specific errors the
Magistrate Judge made in the Report.
Plaintiff's duty both to produce evidence and to prove he
is disabled under the Act. See Pass v. Chater, 65
F.3d 1200, 1203 (4th Cir. 1995). It is the duty of the ALJ,
not this Court, to make findings of fact and to resolve
conflicts in the evidence. Hays v. Sullivan, 907
F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). Under the substantial
evidence standard, however, the Court must view the entire
record as a whole. See Steurer v. Bowen, 815 F.2d,
1249, 1250 (8th Cir. 1987). “Additionally, the
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). Likewise, when considering a Social Security
disability claim, it is not the province of this Court to
“reweigh conflicting evidence substitute [its] judgment
for that of the ALJ." Johnson v. Barnhart, 434
F.3d 650, 653 (4th Cir. 2005) (per curiam) (citation omitted)
(alteration omitted). 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).
first objects he was unable to attend the hearing before the
ALJ. Plaintiffs inability to attend the hearing was noted by
the ALJ at the time of the hearing. Tr. 36. The Report
likewise stated: “Plaintiff did not attend the hearing
because he did not have a ride but was represented by
counsel.” ECF No. 29 at 2. This objection is thus
substantively identical to an issue Plaintiff previously
raised that the Magistrate Judge thoroughly analyzed and
rejected in the Report. The Court agrees with the
well-reasoned conclusions of the Magistrate Judge for the
reasons set forth in the Report. Because this issue has
previously been noted by the Magistrate, the Court declines
to further analyze Plaintiffs first objection. Therefore, the
Court will overrule this objection.
then objects he was, and is, unable to pay for his
medications, which may or may not help him. Plaintiff further
asserts the attorney who represented him before the ALJ knew
Plaintiff was unable to afford his medications. The
Magistrate Judge recommended, though an ALJ may not deny
benefits to claimants who lack financial resources to seek
treatment, no evidence before the ALJ indicated Plaintiff was
unable to afford his medications. ECF No. 29 at 7-9. Having
reviewed the record, the Court agrees with the Magistrate
Judge: no evidence before the ALJ demonstrated Plaintiff was
unable to afford his medications. To the extent Plaintiff
seeks to raise the issue for the first time before this
Court, he may not do so. See City of Riverview v. Surface
Transp. Bd., 398 F.3d 434, 443-44 (6th Cir. 2005)
(noting a court should not review issues not raised before
the agency). For the above reasons, the Court will overrule
Plaintiff's second objection to the Report.
thorough review of the Report and the record in this case
under the standards set forth above, the Court overrules
Plaintiff's objections, adopts the Report, and
incorporates it herein. Therefore, it is the judgment of the
Court Defendant's decision denying Plaintiff's claim
for SSI benefits is AFFIRMED.
Clerk of Court is directed to VACATE this
Court's prior Order adopting the Report, ECF No. 32, and
the corresponding judgment, ECF No. 33, and replace it with
this Amended Order and the corresponding judgment.