Mills v. Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
ORDER adopting 18 Report and Recommendation. The Court AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner. Signed by Honorable Richard M Gergel on 12/20/2016.(abuc)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Barrkick Jermaine Mills,
Carolyn W. Colvin, Commissioner of
Civil Action No. 6: 15-3276-RMG
Plaintiff brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) seeking
judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his claim for
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 pre-trial handling.
The Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation ("R & R") on November 16, 2016,
recommending that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed. (Dkt. No. 18). Plaintiff thereafter
timely filed objections to the R & R and the Commissioner filed a reply. (Dkt. No. 22, 24). For
reasons set forth below, the Court adopts the R & R as the order of this Court.
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 Report and Recommendation to which specific objection is
made. The Court 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 established by the Social
Security Act is a limited one. The Act provides that 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 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 the factual circumstances that substitutes the Court's
findings of fact for those of the Commissioner. Vitek v. Finch, 438 F.2d 1157, 1157 (4th Cir.
Although the federal court's review role is a limited one, "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 action." Flack v. Cohen, 413 F.2d 278,279 (4th Cir. 1969). Further, the
Commissioner's findings of fact are not binding if they were based upon the application of an
improper legal standard. Coffman v. Bowen, 829 F.2d 514, 519 (4th Cir. 1987).
The record reveals that Defendant has a long and complicated mental health history
which involves various psychiatric diagnoses and chronic drug and alcohol abuse. His history
also reveals periodic non-compliance with medications, which frequently was followed by a
recurrence of psychiatric symptoms. The record contains differing diagnoses and impressions by
various providers, most of whom found a correlation between drug and alcohol abuse or
medication non-compliance and Plaintiff s periodically worsening of mental health symptoms.
One consulting examiner, Dr. Jennifer Bennice, Ph.D, a psychologist, apparently relied on
claimant's statements that he denied past use of illicit drugs or current use of alcohol, in
concluding that his problems were primarily psychiatric in nature. Tr. 281-83. Another
consulting examiner, a board certified psychiatrist, Dr. John Custer, made findings more
supportive of alcohol and drug abuse and possible malingering as significant contributing factors
in Plaintiffs presentation. Tr.277-280.
When an administrative record contains the types of conflicts present in this record, the
Commissioner is charged with evaluating and reconciling those conflicts and making appropriate
findings offact. Those findings are entitled to deference under substantial evidence review. The
Magistrate Judge carefully reviewed the agency decision in this matter and concluded that there
is substantial evidence in the record to support the decision of the Commissioner. The Court has
made its own review and reached the very same conclusion. The Court finds that the Magistrate
Judge ably and properly addressed the factual and legal issues and correctly concluded that the
decision of the Commissioner should be affirmed. Therefore, the Court adopts the R & R as the
decision of the Court.
Based upon the foregoing, the Court hereby AFFIRMS the decision of the
AND IT IS SO ORDERED.
Richard Mark Ger el
United States District Judge
Charleston, South Carolina
December ~~\ 2016
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