United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
ORDER ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND
AFFIRMING DEFENDANT'S DECISION DENYING BENEFITS
GEIGER LEWIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
a Social Security appeal in which Plaintiff Amos Mack (Mack)
seeks judicial review of the final decision of Defendant
Andrew Saul (Saul) denying his claim for Disability Insurance
Benefits (DIB). Mack is proceeding pro se. The matter is
before the Court for review of the Report and Recommendation
(Report) of the United States Magistrate Judge suggesting
Saul's final decision be affirmed.
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. §
Magistrate Judge filed the Report on April 5, 2019, Mack
filed his objections on April 26, 2019, and Saul filed his
reply on May 9, 2019. The Court has reviewed the objections,
but holds them to be without merit. It will therefore enter
Social Security Administration has established a five-step
sequential evaluation process for determining if a person is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a). The
five steps are: (1) whether the claimant is currently
engaging in substantial gainful activity; (2) whether the
claimant has a medically determinable severe impairment(s);
(3) whether such impairment(s) meets or equals an impairment
set forth in the Listings; (4) whether the impairment(s)
prevents the claimant from returning to his past relevant
work; and, if so, (5) whether the claimant is able to perform
other work as it exists in the national economy. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v), 416.920(a)(4)(i)-(v).
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), a district court is required to
conduct a de novo review of those portions of the Magistrate
Judge's Report to which a specific objection has been
made. 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).
the plaintiff's duty both to produce evidence and prove
he is disabled under the Act. See Pass v. Chater, 65
F.3d 1200, 1203 (4th Cir. 1995). Nevertheless, the ALJ is to
develop the record and when he “fails in his duty to
fully inquire into the issues necessary for adequate
development of the record, and such failure is prejudicial to
the claimant, the case should be remanded.” Marsh
v. Harris, 632 F.2d 296, 300 (4th Cir. 1980).
also the task of the ALJ, not this Court, to make findings of
fact and 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, the
Court must view the entire record as a whole. See Steurer
v. Bowen, 815 F.2d 1249, 1250 (8th Cir. 1987).
ALJ must sufficiently explain the reasons for their rulings
to allow this Court to provide meaningful review, Radford
v. Colvin, 734 F.3d 288, 296 (4th Cir. 2013), “the
ALJ is not required to address every piece of evidence[;]
[instead, ] he must . . . build an accurate and logical
bridge from the evidence to his conclusion.”
Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 872 (7th Cir. 2000)
(citations omitted). The Court's “general practice,
which [it] see[s] no reason to depart from here, is to take a
lower tribunal at its word when it declares that it has
considered a matter.” Hackett v. Barnhart, 395
F.3d 1168, 1173 (10th Cir.2005).
substantial evidence standard presupposes a zone of choice
within which the decisionmakers can go either way, without
interference by the courts. An administrative decision is not
subject to reversal merely because substantial evidence would
have supported an opposite decision.” Clarke v.
Bowen, 843 F.2d 271, 272-73 (8th Cir. 1988) (citations
omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted) (alteration
omitted). 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).
first contends the ALJ failed to apply Section 423(d)(1)(A)
of the Act. Objections 2. Section 423(d)(1)(A) 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 last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). “To
improve both the uniformity and efficiency” in
implementing the statutory definition of disability,
regulations promulgated under the Act established the
five-step sequential evaluation process the Court detailed
above. Heckler v. Campbell, 461 U.S. 458, 460
employed the five-step analysis in reviewing Mack's claim
and concluded at step five “there were jobs that
existed in significant numbers in the national economy that
[Mack] could have performed.” A.R. 22. Because the
Court concludes the ALJ properly applied Section 423(d)(1)(A)
of the Act via the five-steps, the Court will overrule this
then lists two closely related objections. First, Mack states
the opinion of his primary care physician, Dr. Monnieque
Singleton, must be given controlling weight and the failure
to do so is reversible error. Objections at 2-3. Second, Mack
argues the ALJ, Saul, and the Magistrate Judge failed to
fully investigate his case; otherwise, they would have
concluded Dr. Singleton was his primary care physician and
her medical opinion was supported by the record. Id.
at 3-5. The Court interprets the two related issues as a
claim the Magistrate Judge erred in stating the ALJ gave
proper weight to the opinion of his treating physician, Dr.
Singleton. The Court is unpersuaded.
on the Court's de novo review of the record, it is unable
to say the Magistrate Judge was mistaken in suggesting the
ALJ properly considered the treatment records of Dr.
Singleton. In ...