United States District Court, D. South Carolina
Richard Mark Gergel United States District Judge.
brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to
obtain relief from the final decision of the Commissioner of
the Social Security Administration denying her Disability
Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income under the
Social Security Act. In accord with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)
and Local Civil Rule 73.02 DSC, this matter was referred to a
United States Magistrate Judge for pretrial handling. The
Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation ("R
& R") July 29, 2019, recommending that the
Commissioner's decision be affirmed. (Dkt. No. 21).
Plaintiff filed objections to the Magistrate's
Judge's R & R and the Commissioner filed a response.
(Dkt. Nos. 22, 23).
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 the
Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976). The
Court is charged with making a de novo determination
of those portions of the R & R to which specific
objection has been made, provided that the District Court has
no duty to address objections which have been already raised
before and fully addressed by the Magistrate Judge.
Nichols v. Colvin, 100 F.Supp.3d 487, 497 (E.D. Va.
2015). The District Court may accept, reject, or modify, in
whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge.
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
role of the federal judiciary in the administrative scheme of
the Social Security Act is a limited one. 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). "Substantial evidence has been defined
innumerable times as more than a scintilla, but less than
preponderance." Thomas v. Celebrezze, 331 F.2d
541, 543 (4th Cir. 1964). This standard precludes de
novo review of factual circumstances that substitutes
the Court's findings for those of the Commissioner.
Vitek v. Finch, 438 F.2d 1157 (4th Cir. 1971).
the federal court's review role is limited, "it does
not follow, however, that the findings of the administrative
agency are 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."
Vitek, 438 F.2d at 1157-58.
administrative record documents, and the Administrative Law
Judge ("ALJ") recognizes, Plaintiffs multiple
orthopaedic abnormalities, which include severe impairments
of the cervical and lumbar spine, right shoulder, and right
carpal tunnel syndrome. Tr. 17-23. The ALJ further recognizes
that these impairments reduce Plaintiffs capacity to function
in the work place, finding that she is limited to light work.
Tr. 17. The ALJ finds that Plaintiff is capable of performing
her prior relevant work as a receptionist, which requires
only the capacity to perform sedentary work. Tr. 23. Under
controlling Social Security law, a claimant able to return to
her prior relevant work is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
Plaintiff argues various issues already fully briefed and
capably addressed by the Magistrate Judge, making a rehashing
of these issues here unnecessary. A major thrust of
Plaintiffs objections is that the ALJ failed to consider the
full record when concluding that despite her multiple severe
impairments and frequently documented complaints of pain, she
retained the RFC to perform her past relevant work as a
receptionist. The Court has reviewed with care the underlying
medical record, and there is evidence supportive of Plaintiff
s claims and evidence supportive of the ALJ's findings.
None of the Plaintiffs treating physicians offered the
opinion that she has impairments that prevent her from
sustaining competitive employment, and there is record
evidence indicating that Plaintiff is capable of performing
many activities of daily living, shopping, and raking her
yard. Tr. 64-66, 339-41, 577, 658-59, 664. On the other hand,
there are entries in her treatment records documenting
Plaintiffs persistent complaints of pain and searching for
treatments to provide her relief. Tr. 53-56, 483, 487, 510,
538, 615, 675. Where there is a contested record, it is the
responsibility of the fact finder, here the ALJ, to weigh
that evidence and make findings. If there is substantial
evidence to support those findings, the District Court has
the duty to affirm the decision of the Commissioner under the
substantial evidence rule.
thorough review of the administrative record, the Court is
satisfied that the Magistrate Judge ably and thoroughly
analyzed the factual and legal issues in this matter and
appropriately recommended that the decision of the
Commissioner should be affirmed. Therefore, the Court
ADOPTS the R & R of the Magistrate Judge