Backay v. Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
ORDER RULING ON REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION: The Court ADOPTS the R & R of the Magistrate Judge [Dkt. No. 24] as the order of this Court and AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner. Signed by Honorable Richard M Gergel on 5/16/2017. (gnan )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Timathy Johnathan Backay,
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting,
Commissioner of Social Security,
Civil Action No.4: 16-1936-RMG
Plaintiff 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 his claim for
Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). 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") April 25, 2017, recommending that the Commissioner's decision be
affirmed. (Dkt. No. 24). Plaintiff filed objections to the Magistrate's Judge's R & R, arguing
that the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) failed to adequately explain his findings that Plaintiff
did not meet the requirements for Listing 12.04 and that Plaintiffs pain symptoms were not as
limiting and severe as alleged. (Dkt. No. 26). These are essentially the same arguments Plaintiff
made before the Magistrate Judge.
The 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, and may
accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge. 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(I).
The 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. Vitekv. Finch, 438 F.2d 1157 (4th Cir. 1971).
Although the federal court's review role is limited, "it does not follow, however, that the
findings ofthe 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.
The Commissioner found that Plaintiff suffered from physical and mental health
impairments, including lumbar radiculopathy, status post surgery, and depression. Tr. 14. The
Commissioner further found that Plaintiffs impairments limited him to sedentary work. Tr. 16.
In making those findings, the ALJ appropriately described the conflicted administrative record in
this matter and provided a reasoned and comprehensible explanation for his conclusions. In fact,
the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments provided significant limitations on the scope of the
claimant's potential employment opportunities in the market place, but nonetheless concluded
that the Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity for sedentary work. Tr. 16-20. Further,
the ALJ recognized that Plaintiff suffered from mental health impairments, but provided a
reasoned explanation why those limitations did not meet Listing 12.04 requirements. Tr. 14-16.
Since the record contains substantial evidence to support the findings of the Commissioner, the
Court is obligated to affirm the decision of the Commissioner under the substantial evidence rule.
The Court has reviewed the R & R, the decision of the Administrative Law Judge, the
administrative record, and the applicable case law. 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 (Dkt. No. 24) as the order of this Court and
AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner.
AND IT IS SO ORDERED.
May l.fe, 2017
Charleston, South Carolina
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