United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER AFFIRMING AND ADOPTING
THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE
FREDERICK P. STAMP, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
case, the plaintiff, by counsel, seeks judicial review of the
defendant's decision to deny his claims for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”). The plaintiff applied
for DIB on February 25, 2013, alleging disability beginning
November 21, 2008. His claim was initially denied on May 24,
2013, and again upon reconsideration on July 2, 2013. The
plaintiff then filed a written request for a hearing. On June
25, 2014, the plaintiff filed for SSI benefits, and that
claim was escalated to the hearing level. The Administrative
Law Judge (“the ALJ”) held a video hearing on
July 18, 2014. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision to the
plaintiff, and the plaintiff appealed. The appeals council
denied the plaintiff's request for review, and the
plaintiff timely brought his claim before this Court. The
plaintiff alleges he is unable to work due to (1) depression,
(2) high blood pressure, (3) arthritis, (4) left ankle
impairments, (5) high cholesterol, (6) acid reflux, and (7) a
determine whether the plaintiff was disabled, the ALJ used a
five-step evaluation process pursuant to 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520 and 416.920. Using that process, the
ALJ made the following findings: (1) the plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 21,
2008, the date of the alleged onset of the plaintiff's
disability; (2) the plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: osteoarthritis of the left ankle,
gastroesophageal reflux disease, hypothyroidism, obesity,
major depressive disorder, and personality disorder; (3) 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 is unable
to perform any past relevant work; and (5)
“[c]onsidering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that the claimant can perform.” ECF No. 7-2 at 39.
Therefore, the ALJ found that the plaintiff did not have a
disability as defined under the Social Security Act.
plaintiff and the defendant both filed motions for summary
judgment. The plaintiff argues that the ALJ (1) improperly
assessed the plaintiff's credibility regarding the
intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of his symptoms
and (2) failed to adequately explain his residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) determination. The defendant
argues that the ALJ properly assessed the plaintiff's
credibility and that the credibility determination is
supported by substantial evidence. The defendant also argues
that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's RFC
magistrate judge entered his report and recommendation on
November 21, 2016. The magistrate judge recommends that this
Court deny the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment,
grant the defendant's motion for summary judgment, and
dismiss with prejudice this civil action.
the plaintiff's first argument, the magistrate judge
found that the plaintiff failed to meet his burden of showing
that the ALJ's credibility determination was patently
wrong. See Sencindiver v. Astrue, No. 3:08CV178,
2010 WL 446174, at *33 (N.D. W.Va. Feb. 3, 2010) (stating
that, if the ALJ meet his basic duty of explanation,
“an ALJ's credibility determination [will be
reversed] only if the claimant can show it was
‘patently wrong'” (quoting Powers v.
Apfel, 207 F.3d 431, 435 (7th Cir. 2000))). The
magistrate judge found that the ALJ's discussion of the
evidence in reaching his credibility determination was
sufficiently specific to make clear his reasoning in finding
that the plaintiff is not entirely credible.
the plaintiff's second argument, the magistrate judge
also found that the ALJ's RFC determination was supported
by substantial evidence. The magistrate judge found that the
ALJ properly identified the plaintiff's symptoms and
limitations and then conducted the required
function-by-function analysis, which was accompanied by a
five-page narrative discussion of the evidence. The
magistrate judge found that he was able to discern from the
ALJ's discussion how the ALJ arrived at his conclusions
and was not left guessing at the ALJ's reasoning.
those reasons, the magistrate judge found that substantial
evidence supports the defendant's denial of the
plaintiff's application for DIB and SSI. Thus, the
magistrate judge determined that the defendant's motion
for summary judgment should be granted, the plaintiff's
motion for summary judgment should be denied, and that the
civil action should be dismissed with prejudice. The parties
did not file objections. For the reasons set forth below, the
report and recommendation of the magistrate judge is affirmed
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), this Court must conduct a
de novo review of any portion of the magistrate
judge's 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
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 Cir. 1996).
“Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. A reviewing court “does
not reweigh evidence or make 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 decision.” Thompson v.
Astrue, 442 F. App'x 804, 805 (4th Cir. 2011)
(quoting Johnson v. Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650, 653 (4th
Cir. 2005)). 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.
reviewing the record before this Court, no clearly erroneous
findings exist concerning the magistrate judge's report
and recommendation. As to the plaintiff's first argument
in his motion for summary judgment, the magistrate judge
correctly concluded that the plaintiff did not satisfy his
burden of showing that the ALJ's credibility
determination was patently wrong as required by
Sencindiver. The magistrate judge notes that, when
the ALJ meets his basic duty of explanation, “[a]n
ALJ's credibility determinations are ‘virtually
unreviewable' by this Court.” Ryan v.
Astrue, No. 5:09CV55, 2011 WL 541125, at *3 (N.D. W.Va.
Feb. 8, 2011). The magistrate judge also correctly notes that
an ALJ need not document specific findings as to each
credibility factor set out in Social Security Ruling 96-7p.
See Wolfe v. Colvin, No. 3:14CV4, 2015 WL 401013, at
*4 (N.D. W.Va. Jan. 28, 2015). In this case, and as the
magistrate judge thoroughly documents in his report and
recommendation, the ALJ's discussion of each credibility
factor is sufficiently specific to make clear the ALJ's
reasoning in finding the plaintiff not entirely credible.
Because the plaintiff did not satisfy his burden of ...