United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
M. Groh, Judge
day, the above-styled matter came before the Court for
consideration of the Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) of United States Magistrate Judge
James E. Seibert. Magistrate Judge Seibert issued his R&R
[ECF 16] on September 18, 2014. In the R&R, Magistrate
Judge Seibert recommends the Court grant the Plaintiff's
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [ECF No. 11] because the
Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ”) decision
did not comply with the applicable law and regulations.
Magistrate Judge Seibert further recommends the Court deny
the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 13]
and that this case be remanded to the agency for further
analysis of the step three inquiry.
Plaintiff, Thomas Lee Doty, applied for disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income
(“SSI”) on May 15, 2012, alleging a disability
beginning on December 17, 2008. ECF No. 7-2 at 13.
Plaintiff's claims were initially denied on August 1,
2012, and upon reconsideration on April 5, 2013. Id.
The Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an ALJ, which
was held on September 29, 2014. Id. At the hearing,
the Plaintiff was represented by Ambria Adkins. Id.
Plaintiff testified during the hearing, as did a Vocational
Expert (“VE”), Larry Ostrowski, Ph.D.
Id. At the hearing, the Plaintiff amended his
alleged onset date to May 15, 2012. Id. On October
29, 2014, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff was not disabled
under sections 216(i) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act.
Id. at 23. The Plaintiff appealed this decision to
the Appeals Council, which denied his request. Id.
April 5, 2016, the Plaintiff filed this action [ECF No. 1]
for judicial review of an adverse decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”)
denying his claims for DIB and SSI under Titles II and XVI of
the Social Security Act. The Commissioner filed her Answer
[ECF No. 6] on June 13, 2016. The Plaintiff then filed his
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [ECF No. 11] on July 14,
2016. The Commissioner filed her Motion for Summary Judgment
[ECF No. 13] on August 3, 2016. Plaintiff filed a Response
[ECF No. 16] on August 30, 2016.
Defendant timely filed her objections to the R&R [ECF No.
20] on March 20, 2017, and the Plaintiff filed a Response in
Opposition [ECF No. 21] on April 3, 2017. The Defendant
objects to Magistrate Judge Seibert's finding that the
ALJ failed to perform an adequate step-three analysis.
Specifically, the Defendant argues that the magistrate judge
improperly determined there was ample evidence in the record
to require a discussion of the Plaintiff's impairments
and the Listings. The Defendant relies on Cook v.
Heckler, 783 F.2d 1168 (4th Cir. 1086), for the
proposition that the “ALJ is only required to evaluate
a listing when there is ample evidence in the record to
support a determination that a listing could be met or
equaled.” See ECF No. 20 at 5. The Defendant
maintains that “the facts in this case do not remotely
suggest that Plaintiff met or equaled any of the listed
impairments” and therefore the ALJ's decision
“provided sufficient articulation with respect to the
listings criteria.” Id. at 2-3.
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 the Defendant 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 Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d
44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982) (citing 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 the Defendant 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 “such 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,
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 ...