Hall v. Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
ORDER RULING ON REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION: The Court ADOPTS the 17 R & R of the Magistrate Judge and AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner. Signed by Honorable Richard M Gergel on 1/18/2017. (gnan )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting,
Commissioner of Social Security,
Civil Action No. 5:15-4194-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 her Disability
Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). In accordance 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 (HR & ROO) on December 14,2016,
recommending that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed. (Dkt. No. 17). Plaintiff filed
objections to the R & R and the Commissioner filed a reply. (Dkt. Nos. 19,21).
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)(l).
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. Vitek v. 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 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.
Plaintiffs objections to the R & R essentially reargue points already made to the
Magistrate Judge, which center on the Administrative Law Judge's ("ALJ") alleged failure to
provide specific reasons for rejecting the opinions of two non-examining and non-treating
physicians, who concluded that Plaintiff was limited to light work while adopting the opinions of
an examining consulting physician, Dr. Harriet R. Steinhert, M.D., who concluded that Plaintiff
was capable of performing medium work. As the Magistrate Judge correctly noted, the ALJ gave
"great weight" to the opinions of Dr. Steinert because she conducted a careful physical
examination of Plaintiff and "found the claimant's conditions to not cause her any physical
limitations. This is consistent with the limited and conservative treatment the claimant has
received for these conditions." Tr. 17. Further, as the Magistrate Judge noted, Social Security
Act regulations provide that "[g]enerally, we give more weight to the opinion of a source who
has examined you." 20 C.F.R. § 404.1S27(c)(1). The ALJ gave "significant weight" to the
opinions of the non-examining and non-treating chart reviewers only to the extent those opinions
are "consistent with the medical evidence of record and support the ultimate finding of 'not
disabled' in this case." Tr. 18. 1
The Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge that the ALJ decision "did offer an
explanation" regarding why the examining physician's opinions were adopted by detailing the
opinions of the examining physician and their consistency with the claimant's treatment record
and limiting the endorsement of the chart reviewers' opinions to those not inconsistent with the
described medical record. (Dkt. No. 17 at 20-21). The ALl's decision provides the Court
adequate information to allow proper substantial evidence review and to conclude that there is
substantial evidence in the record to support the decision of the Commissioner in this matter.
After a review of the R & R, the administrative record, the decision of the Administrative
Law Judge, and the applicable legal standards, the Court finds that the Magistrate Judge ably
summarized the factual and legal issues in this matter and correctly concluded that the decision
of the Commissioner should be affirmed. Therefore, the Court ADOPTS the R & R of the
Magistrate Judge and AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner.
1 Plaintiff offered no expert opinions from her treating physicians that indicated that she
is disabled under the Social Security Act. The only record evidence offering an opinion
regarding Plaintiffs work capacity from an examining physician was provided by Dr. Steinert.
AND IT IS SO ORDERED.
United States District Judge
January I~ 2017
Charleston, South Carolina
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?