United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER.
E. JOHNSTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Plaintiff Kevin Allen Bainbridge's Complaint
seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security (“Commissioner”). (ECF No. 2.) By
standing order filed in this case on January 14, 2016, this
action was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Omar J.
Aboulhosn for submission of proposed findings and
recommendations for disposition (the “PF&R”).
(ECF No. 4.) On February 17, 2017, the Magistrate Judge
entered his PF&R, which recommends that this Court deny
Plaintiff's request for judgment on the pleadings, grant
the Commissioner's request for judgment on the pleadings,
affirm the Commissioner's decision, and dismiss this
case. Plaintiff filed timely objections to the PF&R on
March 6, 2017 (the “Objections”).
reasons that follow, the Court OVERRULES the Objections, (ECF
No. 22), ADOPTS the PF&R, (ECF No. 21), DENIES
Plaintiff's request for judgment on the pleadings, (ECF
No. 16), GRANTS the Commissioner's request for judgment
on the pleadings, (ECF No. 19), AFFIRMS the decision of the
Commissioner, and DISMISSES this action.
facts concerning this matter are fully set forth in the
PF&R and need not be repeated here at length. In short,
Plaintiff protectively filed an application for supplemental
security income on September 7, 2012, alleging disability as
of July 31, 2007,  (ECF No. 14-7 at 9), due to post-traumatic
stress disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
(“ADHD”), back pain, and bipolar disorder, (ECF
No. 14-8 at 29). The application was denied initially on
January 22, 2013, (ECF No. 14-5 at 7), and upon
reconsideration on April 19, 2013, (id. at 17).
Law Judge John T. Molleur (the “ALJ”) held a
hearing on August 26, 2014. On September 11, 2014, the ALJ
issued an unfavorable decision. (ECF No. 14-3.) The ALJ found
at step one of the “sequential evaluation”
process that Plaintiff “has not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since September 7, 2012, the application
date.” (Id. at 12.) At step two, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff has several severe impairments, specifically:
sciatica, osteoarthritis of the right hand, cognitive
disorder, generalized anxiety disorder/post-traumatic stress
disorder, bipolar disorder, and alcohol dependence in
remission. (Id. at 12.) At step three of the
analysis, the ALJ found that Plaintiff does not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
(Id. at 13.) The ALJ next found that Plaintiff had
the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(c), reduced
by certain limitations. (Id. at 14-18.) Finally, the
ALJ found at step four that while Plaintiff is incapable of
performing past relevant work, there are jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff
can perform. (Id. at 18.)
Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision on
November 30, 2015. (ECF No. 14-2 at 2-5.) Thereafter, on
January 12, 2016, Plaintiff filed the Complaint in this
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Review of the PF&R
Court is not required to review, under a de novo or any other
standard, the factual or legal conclusions of the magistrate
judge as to those portions of the findings or recommendations
to which no objections are addressed. Thomas v. Arn,
474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985). In addition, this Court need not
conduct a de novo review when a party “makes general
and conclusory objections that do not direct the Court to a
specific error in the magistrate's proposed findings and
recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d
44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982).
Review of the ALJ's Findings and Decision
review of a final decision regarding disability benefits is
limited to determining whether the findings are supported by
substantial evidence and whether the correct law was applied.
See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (“The findings of
the Secretary as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive . . . .”); Coffman v.
Bowen, 829 F.2d 514, 517 (4th Cir. 1987) (“A
factual finding by the ALJ is not binding if it was reached
by means of an improper standard or misapplication of the
law.”). Substantial evidence requires more than a
scintilla, but less than a preponderance, of the evidence.
Mastro v. Apfel, 270 F.3d 171, 176 (4th Cir. 2001).
“It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229
(1938). “In reviewing for substantial evidence, [the
court should] not undertake to reweigh conflicting evidence,
make credibility determinations, or substitute [its] judgment
for that of the Secretary.” Craig v. Chater,
76 F.3d 585, 589 (4th Cir. 1996). If “conflicting
evidence allows reasonable minds to differ as to whether a
claimant is disabled, ” the Court must defer to the
Commissioner's decision. Id. (citing Walker
v. Bowen, 834 F.2d 635, 640 (7th Cir. 1987)).
bears the burden of proving to the Commissioner that he is
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(5); English v. Shalala, 10 F.3d
1080, 1082 (4th Cir. 1993). “The term
‘disability' means . . . inability to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which can be
expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
Commissioner uses a five-step “sequential
evaluation” process to evaluate a disability claim.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a) &
416.920(a)(4). In Hall v. Harris, the Fourth Circuit
provided the following ...