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Jordan v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

March 7, 2019

Sharon Arnet Jordan, Plaintiff,
v.
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          THE 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 Sharon Arnet Jordan's (“Plaintiff”) claim for supplemental security income (“SSI”). The record includes the report and recommendation (“Report”) of United States Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett, 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 her Report, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the Court affirm the Commissioner's final decision denying benefits. Plaintiff filed objections to the Report, and the Commissioner filed a reply 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 affirms the Commissioner's final decision denying benefits.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed for SSI in April of 2013, alleging disability beginning on March 18, 2013. Her application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, and she requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). A hearing was held on June 15, 2016, at which Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, appeared and testified. The ALJ also heard testimony from a vocational expert (“VE”). The ALJ issued a decision on July 8, 2016, denying Plaintiff's claim. Plaintiff requested review of the decision, and on June 30, 2017, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of judicial review. Plaintiff filed this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision on September 1, 2017.

         Plaintiff was born in 1970 and was 42 years old on the date her application was filed. She has a high school education and past relevant work experience as an inspector and a cashier. She alleges disability due to a heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety, high cholesterol, and bronchitis.

         STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         I. The Magistrate Judge's Report

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility for making a final determination remains with this Court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). 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. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2); 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. If a party fails to file any specific objections, this 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.” See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation omitted).

         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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