Karpinski v. Commissioner of Social Security et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER AFFIRMING AND ADOPTING 11 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE: DENYING 8 Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment; and GRANTING 9 defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. This case is DISMISSED with PREJUDICE and STRICKEN from the active docket of this Court. Clerk directed to enter judgment. Signed by Senior Judge Frederick P. Stamp, Jr on 1/3/12. (cc)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF WEST VIRGINIA
Civil Action No. 5:11CV66
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE,
Commissioner of Social Security,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
AFFIRMING AND ADOPTING REPORT AND
RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE
The plaintiff, Melinda Karpinski, protectively filed claims
for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security
Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI, respectively, of the Social
Security Act. In her application, the plaintiff alleges disability
beginning March 14, 2006.
The Social Security Administration
The plaintiff then requested a hearing, and a
hearing was held on May 6, 2009 before an administrative law judge
The plaintiff, as well as a vocational expert (“VE”),
appeared and testified at the hearing.
On June 19, 2009, the ALJ
issued a decision finding that the plaintiff was not disabled
within the meaning of the Social Security Act. The Appeals Council
denied the plaintiff’s request for review, rendering the ALJ’s
The plaintiff filed this complaint against the
Commissioner of Social Security to obtain judicial review of the
final decision denying her applications for SSI and DIB.
The case was referred to United States Magistrate Judge David
§ 636(b)(1)(B). Both the plaintiff and the defendant filed motions
for summary judgment.
On November 14, 2011, the magistrate judge
defendant’s motion for summary judgment be granted, and that the
decision of the Commissioner be affirmed.
Upon submitting his
report, Magistrate Judge Joel informed the parties that if they
objected to any portion of his proposed findings of fact and
recommendation for disposition, they must file written objections
within fourteen days after being served with a copy of the report.
Neither party filed objections.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), this Court must conduct
recommendation to which objection is timely made.
As to those
portions of a recommendation to which no objection is made, a
magistrate judge’s findings and recommendation will be upheld
unless they are “clearly erroneous.”
See Webb v. Califano, 458 F.
objections to the report and recommendation, thus, the plaintiff
waived her right to appeal from a judgment of this Court based
Accordingly, this Court reviews the report and recommendation of
the magistrate judge for clear error.
In her motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff alleges that
the ALJ erred by: (1) failing to find that she met Listing 1.04(A)
of disability for spinal impairment; and (2) failing to honor the
functional limitations of her treating physician, John Schultz,
The plaintiff also argues that she should be found disabled
because of pain alone, which she alleges severely affects her daily
In his motion for summary judgment, the defendant argues that
plaintiff’s limitations do not disable her from all work in the
national economy. Specifically, the defendant asserts: (1) because
the plaintiff does not experience atrophy and the neurological
findings of her treating physician were normal, the ALJ did not err
in finding that she did not meet Listing 1.04(A); (2) the ALJ
complied with the regulations in exercising her discretion and
complied with the regulations in finding the plaintiff not fully
In his report and recommendation, the magistrate judge first
discusses the disability standard under the Social Security Act and
the five-step evaluation process used by the Social Security
Administration to determine if a claimant is disabled.
U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520; 416.920.
concluding: (1) the ALJ correctly determined that the plaintiff
does not meet Listing 1.04(A) for a spinal impairment; (2) the ALJ
assigned proper weight to Dr. Shultz’s opinion; and (3) the ALJ
properly evaluated the plaintiff’s credibility and rejected her
subjective complaints of pain.
An ALJ’s findings will be upheld if supported by substantial
See Milburn Colliery Co. v. Hicks, 138 F.3d 524, 528
(4th Cir. 1998). Substantial evidence is that which a “‘reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.’”
Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990) (quoting Richardson
v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)).
Further, the “‘possibility
of drawing two inconsistent conclusions from the evidence does not
prevent an administrative agency’s findings from being supported by
Sec’y of Labor v. Mutual Mining, Inc., 80
F.3d 110, 113 (4th Cir. 1996) (quoting Consolo v. Fed. Mar. Comm’n,
383 U.S. 607, 620 (1966)).
With regard to the ALJ’s determination that the plaintiff does
not meet Listing 1.04(A) for a spinal impairment, this Court agrees
with the magistrate judge and finds that substantial evidence
supports both the ALJ’s rejection of Dr. Korzi’s opinion, as well
as the weight assigned to Dr. Sella’s opinion.
In this case, Dr.
Korzi’s opinion is not an “acceptable medical source” because it is
the assessment of a chiropractor. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1513(d)(1),
416.913(d)(1); see also Lee v. Sullivan, 945 F.2d 687, 691 (4th
Cir. 1991) (“At best, [a chiropractor’s] assessment can qualify
only as a layman’s opinion.”).
Moreover, Dr. Korzi’s opinion is
inconsistent with other substantial medical evidence in the record,
particularly Dr. Shultz’s treatment notes.
Therefore, this Court
Although Dr. Sella’s opinion is an “acceptable medical source,”
like Dr. Korzi’s opinion, it is inconsistent with other substantial
medical evidence, including Dr. Shultz’s treatment notes.
determination that the ALJ assigned proper weight to Dr. Sella’s
Next, the magistrate judge turns to the ALJ’s assessment of
the plaintiff’s treating physician’s opinion, concluding that the
ALJ assigned proper weight to Dr. Shultz’s opinion because his
substantial evidence in the record.
According to the magistrate
judge, Dr. Shultz’s findings regarding the plaintiff’s physical
limitations are not supported by his treatment notes. Further, the
magistrate judge finds that Dr. Schultz’s functional capacity
evaluation is inconsistent with the assessments performed on the
contradictions, this Court finds no clear error in the magistrate
judge’s determination that the ALJ properly rejected Dr. Schultz’s
Finally, the magistrate judge discusses the ALJ’s credibility
The magistrate judge notes that the ALJ cites to
evidence from the plaintiff’s own testimony, as well as objective
reviewing the two-step process for determining whether a person is
disabled by pain or other symptoms, this Court agrees that because
plaintiff’s subjective complaints, the ALJ properly found that the
plaintiff exaggerated the nature and extent of her impairments and
that her complaints are not fully credible.
See Craig v. Chater,
76 F.3d 585, 594 (4th Cir. 1996) (“First, there must be objective
medical evidence showing the existence of a medical impairment
. . . which could reasonably be expected to produce the pain or
other symptoms alleged . . . .
It is only after a claimant has met
her threshold obligation . . . that the intensity and persistence
of the claimant’s pain, and the extent to which it affects her
ability to work, must be evaluated.”).
Further, there is nothing
in the record to suggest that the ALJ’s credibility determination
is patently wrong.
See Kenney v. Astrue, No. 5:11CV29, 2011 WL
4346306 (N.D. W. Va. Aug. 26, 2011) (“We will reverse an ALJ’s
credibility determination only if the claimant can show it was
patently wrong.”) (internal quotations omitted).
This Court has reviewed the record, as well as the parties’
motions for summary judgment, and for the reasons set forth in the
report and recommendation, concurs with the magistrate judge that
the Commissioner’s decision denying the plaintiff’s application for
SSI and DIB is supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the
For the reasons set forth above, this Court finds that the
magistrate judge’s recommendation is not clearly erroneous and
hereby AFFIRMS and ADOPTS the report and recommendation of the
Accordingly, the plaintiff’s motion for summary
judgment is DENIED and the defendant’s motion for summary judgment
is GRANTED. It is further ORDERED that this case be DISMISSED with
PREJUDICE and STRICKEN from the active docket of this Court.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
The Clerk is DIRECTED to transmit a copy of this memorandum
opinion and order to counsel of record herein. Pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 58, the Clerk is DIRECTED to enter judgment
on this matter.
January 3, 2012
/s/ Frederick P. Stamp, Jr.
FREDERICK P. STAMP, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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