Groves v. Commissioner of Social Security
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING AND AFFIRMING MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S 14 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION, GRANTING DEFENDANT'S 11 MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, DENYING PLAINTIFF'S 9 MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND OVERRULING PL AINTIFF'S 15 OBJECTIONS. It is ORDERED that this civil action be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE and STRICKEN from the active docket of this Court. The Clerk is DIRECTED to enter judgment on this matter Signed by Senior Judge Frederick P. Stamp, Jr. on 12/4/17. (counsel via CM/ECF) (lmm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF WEST VIRGINIA
DANIEL WOODROW GROVES,
Civil Action No. 5:17CV4
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
ADOPTING AND AFFIRMING MAGISTRATE
JUDGE’S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION,
GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT,
DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
AND OVERRULING PLAINTIFF’S OBJECTIONS
The plaintiff, Daniel Woodrow Groves, filed an application for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social
In the application, the plaintiff alleged disability
since September 24, 2012.
The plaintiff alleges that he is unable
to work due to the following ailments: (1) a traumatic brain injury
as a result of a motorcycle accident on September 24, 2012; (2) some
residuals from a broken right wrist and a carpal tunnel surgery; (3)
several stomach issues from an abdominal abscess that occurred
following some surgeries; (4) a small bowel resection; (5) a ventral
hernia; and (6) depression.
The Social Security Administration
reconsideration. The plaintiff then appeared, represented by a nonattorney, at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).
At the hearing, the plaintiff testified on his own behalf, as did
favorable decision to the plaintiff, concluding that the plaintiff
was “disabled” within the meaning of the Social Security Act from
September 24, 2012, through September 16, 2014.
The ALJ found that
the plaintiff’s disability ended on September 17, 2014.
plaintiff then filed an appeal of the decision to the Appeals
The Appeals Council denied the plaintiff’s request for
The ALJ used a five step evaluation process pursuant to 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1420 and 416.920.
Using that process, the ALJ made
the following findings: (1) the plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since September 24, 2012, the alleged
onset date; (2) the plaintiff had the following severe impairments
from September 24, 2012, through September 16, 2014: status post
traumatic brain injury, history of carpal tunnel syndrome, history
of phlebitis and thrombophlebitis, status post abdominal wall
surgery, history of fracture of the right wrist, and depression; (3)
during that time period, none of the plaintiff’s impairments met or
medically equaled the severity of any of the impairments listed in
20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1; (4) the plaintiff was
unable to perform any past relevant work during that time period;
and (5) “[c]onsidering the [plaintiff]’s age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there were no jobs
that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that the
claimant could have performed.”
ECF No. 7-2 at 43.
ALJ found that the plaintiff was disabled from September 24, 2012,
through September 16, 2014.
However, the ALJ went on to say that,
as of September 17, 2014, the plaintiff’s conditions had improved,
and his disability ended.
The plaintiff then filed a request for judicial review of the
ALJ’s decision in this Court.
The case was referred to United
States Magistrate Judge James E. Seibert.
Both parties filed
motions, the magistrate judge entered a report recommending that
the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment be denied and that the
defendant’s motion for summary judgment be granted.
filed timely objections to the report and recommendation.
defendant then filed a response to the plaintiff’s objections.
Because the plaintiff timely filed objections to the report
and recommendation, the magistrate judge’s recommendation will be
reviewed de novo as to those findings to which objections were
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).
As to those findings to which
objections were not made, the findings and recommendations will be
upheld unless they are “clearly erroneous or contrary to law.”
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A).
As the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
has held, “Under the Social Security Act, [a reviewing court] must
uphold the factual findings of the Secretary if they are supported
by substantial evidence and were reached through application of the
correct legal standard.”
Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589 (4th
“Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
credibility determinations in evaluating whether a decision is
supported by substantial evidence; ‘[w]here conflicting evidence
allows reasonable minds to differ,’ we defer to the Commissioner’s
Thompson v. Astrue, 442 F. App’x 804, 805 (4th Cir.
2011) (quoting Johnson v. Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650, 653 (4th Cir.
Further, as the Supreme Court of the United States stated
in United States v. United States Gypsum Co., “a finding is
‘clearly erroneous’ when although there is evidence to support it,
the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the
definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.”
333 U.S. 364, 395.
The plaintiff argues in his motion for summary judgment that
there is no evidence to support a change in the plaintiff’s residual
therefore, that the ALJ should have relied on his finding of the
plaintiff’s RFC from September 24, 2012, to September 16, 2014.
concludes that the ALJ’s finding that a change in the plaintiff’s
RFC was warranted is supported by substantial evidence. In reaching
that conclusion, the magistrate judge found that the ALJ pointed to
Specifically, the ALJ noted that the plaintiff stated during a
neuropsychological evaluation in September 2014 that his memory was
slowly returning, his fatigue was mild, and he was resuming some
physical activities that he previously had not been able to do. The
ALJ also noted that the plaintiff denied being depressed in 2015,
and that the plaintiff’s mood appeared to be controlled with the aid
substantial evidence supported the ALJ’s finding that the plaintiff
was not disabled after September 17, 2014.
In his objections, the plaintiff contends that the ALJ and the
magistrate judge ignored evidence that contradicted the ALJ’s
Specifically, the plaintiff argues that the ALJ ignored
evidence suggesting that he still experienced symptoms, including
memory impairment, fatigue, and depression, after September 17,
2014. Additionally, the plaintiff argues that the evidence does not
support a finding that the plaintiff improved on the exact date
found by the ALJ.
In response to the plaintiff’s objections, the
defendant argues that the magistrate judge correctly applied the
substantial evidence standard of review and that the ALJ was not
required to cite every piece of evidence when making his finding,
especially in light of the size of the record in this case.
defendant contends that the ALJ “judiciously cited and discussed
significant record evidence, but also stated that his conclusions
were reached ‘[a]fter careful consideration of the entire record.’”
ECF No. 12 at 10.
Thus, the defendant argues that the ALJ’s
analysis is reasonable and should be affirmed by this Court.
On de novo review, this Court finds that the ALJ’s analysis
and conclusion regarding the change in the plaintiff’s RFC is
supported by substantial evidence. The magistrate judge is correct
that the central determination is whether the medical evidence
showed a disability when the ALJ reviewed the case.
See Cuffee v,
Berryhill, 680 F. App’x 156, 160 (4th Cir. 2017) (finding, based on
the medical evidence in the record, that “the ALJ’s decision to
depart from the prior RFC was supported by substantial evidence”).
The relevant regulation states as follows:
If medical improvement is shown to be related to your
ability to do work or if one of the first group of
exceptions to medical improvement applies, we will
determine whether all your current impairments in
combination are severe . . . . When the evidence shows
that all your current impairments in combination do not
significantly limit your physical or mental abilities to
do basic work activities, these impairments will not be
considered severe in nature. If so, you will no longer
be considered to be disabled.
20 C.F.R. 404.1594(f)(6).
In the present case, this Court finds
that substantial evidence supported the ALJ’s finding that the
plaintiff’s current impairments were not severe in nature and,
thus, that the plaintiff was no longer disabled.
As noted above,
the ALJ cited improvements in the plaintiff’s memory, level of
fatigue, ability to do physical activity, and mood, all of which
contributed to his finding that the plaintiff’s RFC had changed by
September 17, 2014.
Thus, the ALJ’s determination should be
upheld, as recommended by the magistrate judge.
For the reasons set forth above, the magistrate judge’s report
Accordingly, the defendant’s motion for summary judgment (ECF No.
11) is GRANTED, the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment (ECF
No. 9) is DENIED, and the plaintiff’s objections to the report and
recommendation (ECF No. 15) are OVERRULED. It is ORDERED that this
civil action 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.
December 4, 2017
/s/ Frederick P. Stamp, Jr.
FREDERICK P. STAMP, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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