United States District Court, D. South Carolina
Honorable Bruce H. Hendricks United States District Judge.
an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking
judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's
(“Commissioner”) final decision, which denied
Plaintiff Kimely Burson Rivers's
(“Plaintiff”) claim for disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”) and 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.).
Report, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the Court affirm
the Commissioner's final decision. Plaintiff filed
objections to the Report, to which the Commissioner filed a
response. 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 Plaintiff's objections.
filed applications for DIB and SSI on April 15, 2014,
alleging a disability onset date of April 4, 2014. Her
application was denied initially and upon reconsideration.
Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law
judge (“ALJ”), which was held on February 10,
2017. On May 10, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision
denying Plaintiff's claim. The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review, thereby rendering the
ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision for
purposes of judicial review. Plaintiff filed this action
seeking judicial review on May 7, 2018.
The Magistrate Judge's Report
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.
Judicial Review of a Final Decision
federal judiciary plays a limited role in the administrative
scheme as established by the Social Security Act. Section
405(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
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
Shively v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 987, 989 (4th Cir.
1984) (quoting Laws v. Celebrezze, 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).
The Commissioner's Final Decision
Commissioner is charged with determining the existence of a
disability. The Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
301-1399, defines “disability” as the
“inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or
which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous
period of not less than 12 months . . . .” 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(A). This determination involves the
following five-step inquiry:
[The first step is] whether the claimant engaged in
substantial gainful employment. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b).
If not, the analysis continues to determine whether, based
upon the medical evidence, the claimant has a severe
impairment. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c) If the claimed
impairment is sufficiently severe, the third step considers
whether the claimant has an impairment that equals or exceeds
in severity one or more of the impairments listed in Appendix
I of the regulations. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d); 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, subpart P, App. I. If so, the claimant is disabled.
If not, the next inquiry considers if the impairment prevents
the claimant from returning to past work. 20 C.F.R. §