United States District Court, D. South Carolina
Crystal Weaver Brown, on behalf of, K.M.M. 1490, Plaintiff,
Nancy Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
C. Coggins, Jr. United States District Judge
has brought this pro se action on behalf of her
minor child, K.M.M. 1490, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
seeking judicial review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”)
denying her claim for Supplemental Security Income
("SSI"). In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)
and Local Civil Rule 73.02 (D.S.C.), this matter was referred
to a United States Magistrate Judge for pre-trial handling.
On January 25, 2019, Magistrate Judge Kaymani D. West issued
a Report and Recommendation (“Report”),
recommending that the decision of the Commissioner be
affirmed. ECF No. 70. On February 8, 2019, Plaintiff filed
Objections to the Report, and the Commissioner filed a Reply
on February 20, 2019. ECF Nos. 73, 76. For the reasons stated
below, the Court adopts the Report and incorporates it herein
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court.
The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the
responsibility to make a final determination remains with
this Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71
(1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo
determination of only those portions of the Report that have
been specifically objected to, and the Court may accept,
reject, or modify the Report, in whole or in part. 28 U.S.C.
role of the federal judiciary in the administrative scheme
established by the Social Security Act (“the
Act”) is a limited one. Section 205(g) of the Act
provides, “[t]he findings of the Secretary as to any
fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be
conclusive . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
“Substantial evidence has been defined innumerable
times as more than a scintilla, but less than
preponderance.” Thomas v. Celebreeze, 331 F.2d
541, 543 (4th Cir. 1964). This standard precludes a de novo
review of the factual circumstances that substitutes the
court's findings for those of the Commissioner. Vitek
v. Finch, 438 F.2d 1157 (4th Cir. 1971). The court must
uphold the Commissioner's decision as long as it was
supported by substantial evidence and reached through the
application of the correct legal standard. Johnson v.
Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650 (4th Cir. 2005). “From this
it does not follow, however, that the findings of the
administrative agency are to be mechanically accepted. The
statutorily granted right of review contemplates more than an
uncritical rubber stamping of the administrative
action.” Flack v. Cohen, 413 F.2d 278, 279
(4th Cir. 1969). “[T]he courts must not abdicate their
responsibility to give careful scrutiny to the whole record
to assure that there is a sound foundation for the
[Commissioner's] findings, and that his conclusion is
rational.” Vitek, 438 F.2d at 1157-58.
August 2012, Plaintiff applied for SSI on K.M.M.'s behalf
alleging a disability onset date of November 21, 2008. The
application was denied initially and upon reconsideration.
Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge ("ALJ"), which was held on October 8, 2014.
The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on December 15, 2014.
Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision, and the
Appeals Council issued an order remanding the case to the ALJ
with instructions to evaluate a statement from K.M.M.'s
treating neurologist regarding his migraine headaches,
K.M.M.'s autism diagnosis, and evidence regarding
K.M.M.'s learning disability to determine if these
impairments "cause more than a slight abnormality or a
combination of slight abnormalities that causes significant
functional limitations. The Appeals Council also instructed
the ALJ to consider new and material evidence submitted with
the request for review regarding K.M.M.'s scoliosis
diagnosis and his body mass index.
second hearing was held before the ALJ on July 14, 2016.
Thereafter, on November 2, 2016, the ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's claim. Plaintiff
requested review, sought an exception to reapply for SSI
while the case was pending, and requested the case be
considered as a dire need. On April 25, 2017, the Appeals
Council issued an order denying Plaintiff's request for
review after considering additional evidence submitted by
Plaintiff and considering Plaintiff's allegation of bias
by the ALJ. The Appeals Council's denial made the ALJ
decision the final decision for purposes of judicial review.
Magistrate Judge addressed each of the issues raised by
Plaintiff in great detail and through the proper lens of
liberal construction of pro se pleadings. Plaintiff submitted
lengthy objections, which the Court has thoroughly reviewed.
In large part, Plaintiff's objections recite legal
standards, standards for various Listings, and arguments from
her briefs. Liberally construing Plaintiff's objections,
the Court notes that Plaintiff merely reargues the issues
already raised in her briefs without raising any specific
objections to the Report. Nonetheless, the Court has
conducted a de novo review of the record and reviewed the
Report with great scrutiny to ensure that the ALJ's
decision is supported by substantial evidence and that the
ALJ applied the appropriate legal standards. Having done so,
the Court concludes that the Report's detailed discussion
of the issues in this case is correct and incorporates it
herein by reference. Accordingly, the Court affirms the
decision of the Commissioner.
reasons set forth above, the Court ADOPTS
the Report and AFFIRMS the ...