United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia, Martinsburg
ORDER ADOPTING IN PART REPORT AND
M. GROH CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
day, the above-styled matter came before the Court for
consideration of a Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) entered by United States Magistrate
Judge Robert W. Trumble. In the R&R, Magistrate Judge
Trumble recommends the Court grant the Defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 16] because substantial
evidence supports the Administrative Law Judge's
(“ALJ”) denial of the Plaintiff's application
for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income. Magistrate Judge Trumble recommends the Court deny
the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 12]
and that this case be dismissed with prejudice.
August 13, 2012,  the Plaintiff protectively filed her
application, alleging disability that began on June 12, 2012.
The Plaintiff's claims were initially denied on March 20,
2013, and again upon reconsideration on June 18, 2013. On
June 30, 2013, the Plaintiff filed a written request for a
hearing, which was held before an Administrative Law Judge on
December 8, 2014. Plaintiff, represented by counsel, Brian D.
Bailey, Esq., appeared and testified, as did a vocational
expert. On January 22, 2015, the ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision to Plaintiff, finding that she was not disabled
within the meaning of the Social Security Act. On June 30,
2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff‘s request
for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision
of the Commissioner.
26, 2016, Amber Lowther (“Plaintiff”) filed a
complaint against the Commissioner of Social Security. The
Plaintiff filed her motion for summary judgment on October
28, 2016. ECF No. 12. The Commissioner filed her motion for
summary judgement on December 20, 2016. ECF No. 16.
Magistrate Judge Trumble then entered an R&R on April 7,
2017. ECF No. 22. The Plaintiff filed objections to
Magistrate Judge Trumble's R&R on April 20, 2017. ECF
No. 23. The Commissioner filed a response on April 25, 2017.
ECF No. 24.
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 “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 does not proceed to
the next step. Id.
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 ...