Shuler v. Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
ORDER RULING ON REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION: The court adopts the Report of the Magistrate Judge. The Commissioner's objections are overruled and the Commissioner's final decision is reversed and remanded pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 405(g). Signed by Honorable Timothy M Cain on 2/5/2013. (gnan )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Michael J. Astrue,
Civil Action No. 4:11-3323-TMC
OPINION & ORDER
Plaintiff brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of a
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his
claims for Supplemental Security Income Benefits (“SSI”) under the Social Security Act
(the "Act"). This matter is before the court for a review of the Magistrate Judge's Report
and Recommendation (“Report"), filed on December 19, 2012. (Dkt. No. 24).
The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court.
recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final
determination remains with this court.
Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (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 to him
with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
The Plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security income on October 1,
2007, with an alleged disability onset date of July 15, 2007. The applicant was denied
initially and on reconsideration by the Social Security Administration. An Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) conducted a hearing on May 18, 2010, and the ALJ denied Plaintiff
benefits. The ALJ’S finding became the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s request for review. The Plaintiff
then filed an action for judicial review.
The matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for a report and
recommendation pursuant to Title 28, U.S.C., Section 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule
73.02 (B)(2)(a), D.S.C. The Magistrate Judge to whom this case was referred filed a
Report on December 19, 2012, in which he recommended that the Commissioner’s
decision be reversed and remanded for further administrative proceedings and advised
the parties of their rights to file specific objections. (Dkt. No. 24-1). The Commissioner
filed objections on January 7, 2013. (Dkt. No. 26). The matter is now ripe for review.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
The role of the federal judiciary in the administrative scheme established by the
Social Security Act is a limited one. Section 405(g) of the Act provides, “[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 . . . as “more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance.” Thomas v.
Celebrezze, 331 F. 2d 541, 543 (4th Circ. 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 Circ. 1971). The court must uphold
the Commissioner’s decision as long as it is supported by substantial evidence. Blalock
v. Richardson, 483 F.2d 773, 775 (4th Circ. 1972).
From this it does not follow,
however, 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
Circ. 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, and that this conclusion is rational.” Vitek, 438 F.2d at 1157-58.
An individual is disabled if he is unable “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 has lasted or can be expected to last for a
continuous period of not less than twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. § 416(i)(1). In his Report,
the Magistrate Judge sets forth the relevant facts and legal standards which are
incorporated herein by reference.
The Magistrate Judge recommended that the decision of the Administrative Law
Judge be reversed and remanded under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. Section 405 (g) for
an explanation as to a conflict between the vocational expert’s testimony and The
Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT”) with regard to manipulation and fingering
required with the jobs cited by the vocational expert. (Report at 9). The Commissioner
objects stating that Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that he was harmed by the ALJ’s
failure to ask the vocational expert about the manipulative and fingering inconsistencies.
(Obj. at 2-3).
Upon consideration of the Commissioner's objections, the court finds that the
Magistrate Judge performed a thorough analysis of the record, including his evaluation
of the medical evidence, in reaching the conclusion that the matter should be remanded
to the Commissioner for the purpose of providing an explanation as to the conflict
between the vocational expert’s testimony and the DOT with regard to manipulation and
fingering required with the jobs cited by the vocational expert. Therefore, based upon
the foregoing, the court overrules the Commissioner's objections to the Magistrate
After a thorough review of the record, the court finds the Magistrate Judge’s
Report provides an accurate summary of the facts and law applicable to this case. The
court adopts the Report of the Magistrate Judge and incorporates it herein by this
The Commissioner’s objections are overruled.
For the reason set out
hereinabove and in the Report, pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. Section 405 (g),
the Commissioner’s final decision is reversed and remanded for further proceedings not
inconsistent with this order.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/Timothy M. Cain
United States District Judge
Anderson, South Carolina
February 5, 2013
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