United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
Timothy M. Cain, United States District Judge.
Maureen Elizabeth Glenn (“Glenn”), brought this
action pursuant to the Social Security Act
(“SSA”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking
judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security (“Commissioner”), denying her
claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”)
and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). (ECF
No. 1). In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and
Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(a), D.S.C., this matter was
referred to a magistrate judge for pretrial handling. Before
this court is the magistrate judge's Report and
Recommendation (“Report”), recommending that the
court affirm the Commissioner's decision. (ECF No.
Glenn has filed objections to the Report (ECF No. 27), and
the Commissioner has responded to those objections (ECF No.
28). Accordingly, this matter is now ripe for review.
1, 2014, Glenn applied for DIB and SSI, alleging that she has
been unable to work since March 11, 2014. (ECF No. 11-2 at
14). Her claim was denied initially on August 12, 2014, and
upon reconsideration on December 10, 2014. Id. On
December 7, 2016, an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) conducted a hearing and received
testimony from Glenn and vocational expert Carroll H.
Crawford. Id. On March 15, 2017, the ALJ denied
Glenn's claim for benefits. Id. at 28.
decision, the ALJ found that Glenn suffered from lupus and
arthralgias, which he determined to be severe impairments.
Id. at 16. The ALJ determined that Glenn's
impairments to her mental functioning were not severe and
produced only mild limitations. Id. at 19-20.
Likewise, the ALJ found that Glenn's other alleged
impairments, including overactive bladder, gastroesophageal
reflux disease, diabetes, pneumonia, vision problems,
obesity, insomnia, and fibromyalgia, were not severe.
Id. at 22. The ALJ concluded that Glenn did
“not have an impairment or combination of impairments
that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the
listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
1.” Id. at 20. The ALJ then assessed
Glenn's residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
and concluded she could perform light, unskilled work as
defined by as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b),
limited as follows:
The claimant is limited to lifting and/or carrying up to 20
pounds occasionally and up to 10 pounds frequently. The
claimant can sit and/or stand/walk for up to 6 hours in an
8-hour workday. The claimant can never climb ladders, ropes
or scaffolds. She can frequently balance and occasionally
climb, stoop, kneel crouch or crawl. . . .
Id. at 21.
of these limitations, the ALJ found that Glenn is unable to
perform her past relevant work as a forklift operator, which
involved medium, semi-skilled work. Id. at 26.
Nonetheless, the ALJ concluded that, based on Glenn's
age, education, work experience and RFC, “there are
jobs that exist in the national economy that the claimant can
perform, ” such as stock checker, price marker, and
sales attendant. Id. at 27. Thus, the ALJ ruled that
Glenn was not disabled within the meaning of the SSA between
March 11, 2014, and May 25, 2017, the date of the ALJ's
decision. Id. at 28. The Appeals Council
subsequently denied Glenn's request for review, making
the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. Id. at 2.
January 29, 2018, Glenn filed this action seeking judicial
review of the Commissioner's decision. (ECF No. 1). On
April 24, 2019, the magistrate judge issued the Report
recommending that the court affirm the Commissioner's
decision. (ECF No. 24). Glenn filed objections to the Report,
raising two specific grounds: (1) that the magistrate judge
erred in adopting the ALJ's determination that Glenn can
perform limited light, unskilled work where the ALJ failed to
consider the combination of Glenn's severe and non-severe
impairments; and (2) that the magistrate judge erroneously
concluded that substantial evidence supported the ALJ's
final determination at step five that Glenn could perform
unskilled light work. (ECF No. 27 at 5, 8). In response, the
Commissioner contended that Glenn's objections merely
raised arguments already considered and rejected by the
magistrate judge. (ECF No. 28).
Standard of Review
federal judiciary has a limited role in the administrative
scheme established by the SSA. Section 405(g) of the Act
provides, “the 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 . . . as
more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance.”
Thomas v. Celebrezze, 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). Thus, in its
review, the court may not “undertake to re-weigh
conflicting evidence, make credibility determinations, or
substitute [its] own judgment for that of the
[Commissioner].” Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585,
589 (4th Cir. 1996).
“[f]rom this it does not follow . . . 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
agency.” Flack v. Cohen, 413 F.2d 278, 279
(4th Cir. 1969). Rather, “the 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 this conclusion is
rational.” Vitek, 438 F.2d at 1157-58.
first objection, Glenn argues that the magistrate judge
erroneously concluded that the ALJ properly considered
Glenn's severe and non-severe impairments in combination
before determining that Glenn has an RFC allowing her to
perform limited light, unskilled work. (EFC No. 27 at 5). As
an initial matter, the court notes that Glenn presented an
identical argument to the magistrate judge. (ECF No. 17 at
24). In fact, Glenn cut-and-pasted a significant portion of
this objection from her initial brief to the magistrate
judge. Compare (ECF No. 27 at 6-8) with
(ECF No. 17 at 26, 28-29). As district courts in the Fourth
Circuit have repeatedly stated, “an objection that
merely repeats the arguments made in the briefs before the
magistrate judge is a general objection and is treated as a
failure to object.” Jesse S. v. Saul, No.
7:17-cv-00211, 2019 WL 3824253, at *1 (W.D. Va. Aug. 14,
2019); see Nichols v. Colvin, No. 2:14-cv-50, 2015
WL 1185894, at *8 (E.D. Va. Mar. 13, 2015) (finding that the
rehashing of arguments raised to the magistrate judge does
not comply with the requirement to file specific objections).
A district ...