United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia, Martinsburg
December 14, 2016
FILISA D. HADDIX, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
M. GROH CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
day, the above-styled matter came before the Court for
consideration of the Report and Recommendation
("R&R”) of United States Magistrate Judge
Michael J. Aloi. Magistrate Judge Aloi entered the R&R on
September 27, 2016. ECF No. 25. In the R&R, Magistrate
Judge Aloi recommends the Court grant the Plaintiff's
Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 20] because substantial
evidence does not support the Administrative Law Judge's
(“ALJ”) denial of the Plaintiff's application
for disability insurance benefits. Magistrate Judge Aloi
recommends the Court deny the Commissioner's Motion for
Summary Judgment [ECF No. 22], and that this case be
Haddix (“Plaintiff”) received supplemental
security income (“SSI”) as a child, from 1998
through 2011. Pursuant to the rules, upon becoming an adult,
the Plaintiff's eligibility for benefits was
re-determined. The Plaintiff's redetermination claim was
initially denied on August 30, 2011, and again denied upon
reconsideration on April 12, 2012. The Plaintiff then
requested a hearing, which was held before an Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”), who determined that the
Plaintiff was not disabled. The Appeals Council denied the
Plaintiff's request for review, and she filed her
complaint in this Court on September 9, 2015. Thereafter, the
Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on February 4,
2016. ECF No. 20. The Commissioner filed her motion for
summary judgement on March 7, 2016. ECF No. 22. Magistrate
Judge Aloi then entered the R&R on September 27, 2016.
ECF No. 25.
Standards of Review
Review of the R&R
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), this Court must review
de novo those portions of the magistrate judge's
findings to which a party objects. However, failure to file
objections permits the district court to review the R&R
under the standards that the district court believes are
appropriate, and if parties do not object to an issue, the
parties' right to de novo review is waived as to
that issue. See Webb v. Califano, 468 F.Supp. 825
(E.D. Cal. 1979). Therefore, this Court will conduct a de
novo review only as to those portions of the R&R to
which any party objects and will review the remaining
portions of the R&R for clear error.
Review of the ALJ Decision
Social Security Act limits this Court's review of a final
decision of the Commissioner to: (1) whether substantial
evidence supports the Commissioner's decision,
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971), and
(2) whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal
standards, Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456
(4th Cir. 1990). The phrase “supported by substantial
evidence” means “more than a mere
scintilla” and Asuch relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
See Perales, 402 U.S. at 401 (citing Consol.
Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)).
reviewing court must not re-weigh the evidence or substitute
its judgment for that of the Commissioner, so long as that
decision is supported by substantial evidence. Hays,
907 F.2d at 1456. Ultimately, it is the duty of the ALJ
reviewing a case, not the responsibility of the Court, to
make findings of fact and to resolve conflicts in the
evidence. King v. Califano, 599 F.2d 597, 599 (4th
Cir. 1979) (“This Court does not find facts or try the
case de novo when reviewing disability
determinations.”); see also Seacrist v.
Weinberger, 538 F.2d 1054, 1056-57 (4th Cir. 1976)
(“We note that it is the responsibility of the
[Commissioner] and not the courts to reconcile
inconsistencies in the medical evidence, and that it is the
claimant who bears the risk of nonpersuasion.”).
determine whether a claimant is disabled, the ALJ conducts a
five-step evaluation process. 20 C.F.R. ' 404.1520(a)(4).
If the ALJ finds the claimant is disabled or not disabled at
a certain step, the ALJ does not proceed to the next step.
Id. At step one, the ALJ must determine whether the
claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity. The ALJ
then determines whether the claimant has a severe impairment
at step two. Next, the ALJ Determines whether the claimant
has a listed impairment (20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1) and conducts a Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”) assessment. At step four, the ALJ
considers the RFC assessment to determine whether the
claimant can perform past relevant work. Finally, during step
five the ALJ Considers the RFC assessment, age, education,
and work experience to determine whether the claimant can
perform any other work. See Davidson v. Astrue,
Civil Action No. 2:11-CV-55, 2012 WL 667296, at *3 (N.D.
W.Va. Feb. 28, 2012) (citing 20 C.F.R. ' 404.1520(a)(4)).
under the five-step process, the ALJ found the Plaintiff was
not disabled from any time between October 28, 2009, the
alleged onset date of her disability, through December 31,
2011, when she was last insured.
careful consideration of the record, the parties'
motions, and the R&R, the Court finds that Magistrate
Judge Aloi committed no clear error with regard to the
portions of the R&R to which the Commissioner filed no
objections. The Commissioner only objects to the Magistrate
Judge's R&R for failing to “address whether
Plaintiff currently had deficits in adaptive
functioning.” ECF No. 26 at 2. Accordingly, the Court
now considers, de novo, whether Magistrate Judge
Aloi adequately considered the Plaintiff's current
deficits in adaptive functioning, or lack thereof.
objections, the Commissioner points to the ALJ's
discussion of the Plaintiff's daily activities as
supporting her contention that the Plaintiff does not
currently have deficits in adaptive functioning, and
therefore, is not disabled under the Act. However, as
Magistrate Judge Aloi noted in his R&R, “[t]he
absence of certain deficits does not preclude the absence of
others.” ECF No. 25 at 15. Moreover, the Magistrate
Judge explicitly stated that evidence in the record supports
finding that the Plaintiff suffers from deficits in adaptive
functioning; specifically, the Plaintiff submitted evidence
that deficits exist in the areas of functional academic
skills, social/interpersonal skills and communication.
Further, the Plaintiff has consistently demonstrated
remarkably low IQ scores over the course of her life. In
reviewing the ALJ's decision and the record as a whole,
the Court concurs with the Magistrate Judge's
recommendation to remand this matter for further
consideration. Specifically, the Court finds that the
ALJ's determination that the Plaintiff did not suffer
from deficits in adaptive functioning is not supported by
because substantial evidence does not support the ALJ's
decision, the Court OVERRULES the Commissioner's
objection. Upon review of the above, it is the opinion of
this Court that the Report and Recommendation [ECF No. 25]
should be, and is, hereby ORDERED ADOPTED. For the reasons
more fully stated in the Report and Recommendation, this
Court ORDERS that the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary
Judgment [ECF No. 20] be GRANTED and the Commissioner's
Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 22] be DENIED. The Court
further ORDERS that this matter be REMANDED for further
action in accordance with the R&R.
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 58, the Clerk is directed
to enter a separate order of judgment in favor of the
Clerk is DIRECTED to transmit copies of this
Order to all counsel of record herein.