United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson/Greenwood Division
ORDER ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND
AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER
GEIGER LEWIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a Social Security appeal in which Plaintiff Anthony Carol
Hand (Hand) seeks judicial review of the final decision of
Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill (Commissioner) denying
Hand's claims for disability insurance benefits (DIB) and
supplemental security income (SSI). The parties are
represented by excellent counsel. The matter is before the
Court for review of the Report and Recommendation (Report) of
the United States Magistrate Judge suggesting to the Court
the Commissioner's decision 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. §
636(b)(1). 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).
Therefore, the Court need not-and will not-address any of
Hand's arguments that fail to point the Court to alleged
specific errors the Magistrate Judge made in the Report.
Magistrate Judge filed the Report on April 30, 2019. Hand
filed his sole objection on May 5, 2019, and the Commissioner
replied on May 16, 2019. The Court has carefully reviewed
Hand's objection but holds it to be without merit.
Therefore, it will enter judgment accordingly.
applied for DIB and SSI on November 24, 2015, asserting his
disability commenced on June 1, 2012. The claims were denied
initially and on reconsideration by the Social Security
Administration. On Hand's request, an administrative law
judge (ALJ) conducted a de novo hearing on December 14, 2017
of Hand's claims. On January 10, 2018, the ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision holding Hand not disabled under the
Social Security Act (the Act) from the date of the alleged
disability onset through the date of decision. Although the
ALJ determined that Hand's impairments prohibited him
from returning to his past relevant work, the ALJ determined
that Hand is able to perform other jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy. Therefore, the
ALJ determined that Hand did not have a disability under the
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). And, 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). “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,
however, the Court must view the entire record as a whole.
See Steurer v. Bowen, 815 F.2d, 1249, 1250 (8th Cir.
1987). 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).
objects to the Magistrate Judge's finding the ALJ's
decision was supported by substantial evidence. Objection 1.
Specifically, Hand contends the ALJ failed to consider the
evidence of his condition worsening over time. Id.
at 2. According to Hand, the ALJ placed “erroneous
reliance on the ‘lack of medical evidence' and
‘extensive activities of [Hand's] daily
living'” to determine Hand's impairments did
not inhibit his ability to engage in medium work despite
testimony from a treating podiatrist. Id. at 4-5.
Hand argues because the Magistrate Judge failed to address
the issues Hand raised about alleged contradictions in the
ALJ's decision or the ALJ's alleged failure to follow
procedures for the consideration of medical evidence, the
case must be remanded. Id. at 1, 5. The Court
“must consider all the evidence and explain on the
record the reasons for his findings, including the reason for
rejecting relevant evidence in support of the claim.”
King v. Califano, 615 F.2d 1018, 1020 (4th Cir.
1980). “Even if legitimate reasons exist for rejecting
or discounting certain evidence, [the ALJ] cannot do so for
no reason or for the wrong reasons.” Id.
Further, the Court “cannot determine if findings are
unsupported by substantial evidence unless [the ALJ]
explicitly indicates the weight given to all of the relevant
evidence.” Gordon v. Schweiker, 725 F.2d 231,
235 (4th Cir. 1984). Nevertheless, the duty of explanation is
satisfied “[i]f a reviewing court can discern what the
ALJ did and why he did it.” Piney Mountain Coal Co.
v. Mays, 176 F.3d 753, 762 n.10 (4th Cir. 1999)
(internal quotation marks omitted).
reviewed the record under the standard set forth above, the
Court finds that the Magistrate Judge did address the issues
raised by Hand and agrees with the Magistrate Judge that the
ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence. As
the Magistrate Judge notes, “the ALJ adequately
discussed the evidence in the entire record and addressed his
consideration of the same.” Report 22.
to Hand's assertion, the ALJ properly considered the
chronology of the evidence. The Court agrees with the
Magistrate Judge that the ALJ's analysis of Hand's
daily activities and Hand's new treatment regimen
constitute substantial evidence of Hand's residual
functional capacity. The ALJ properly considered Hand's
daily activities beginning in December 2015 until December
2017 and found Hand's activities were not limited to the
extent expected based on his complaints. Id. The ALJ
also properly considered Hand's medication in December
2017 and Hand's use of medical assistive devices
beginning in April 2016 until December 2017. Id.
also argues the ALJ improperly dismissed the November 2017
opinion of his treating podiatrist, Dr. William Long.
However, the ALJ considered Dr. Long's opinion in the
context of the whole record and found that his opinion was
contradictory to the rest of the evidence. The Court agrees
with the Magistrate Judge that the ALJ properly explained his
consideration of Dr. Long's opinion, finding his opinion
to be unsupported by the medical evidence of record.
Id. The ALJ found Dr. Long's other physical
examinations of Hand contradict his November 2017 opinion.
Id. at 23. Finally, the ALJ considered the short
two-month period of time in which Dr.
treated Hand and properly construed the weight of Dr.
Long's opinion under the applicable regulations.
Id. at 23. The ALJ properly considered all of the
evidence in the record and substantial evidence existed for
him to determine Hand was not disabled under the Act.
thorough review of the Report and the record in this case
under the standard set forth above, the Court overrules
Hand's objections, adopts the Report, and incorporates it
herein. Therefore, it is the ...