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Green v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Bluefield

September 14, 2017

TINA LOUISE GREEN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DAVID A. FABER, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This action seeks review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, who denied plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”). By Standing Order, this case was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Omar J. Aboulhosn to consider the pleadings and evidence, and to submit proposed findings of fact and recommendation for disposition, under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). (Doc. No. 4). On March 30, 2017, Magistrate Judge Aboulhosn issued Proposed Findings & Recommendation (“PF&R”), recommending that the court deny Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, grant Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, and dismiss this case with prejudice. (Doc. No. 22).

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), the parties had fourteen days, plus three mailing days, from the date of the filing of the PF&R to file objections.

         On April 17, 2017, plaintiff timely filed objections to the PF&R (Doc. No. 23). The Government responded three days later. (Doc. No. 24).

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, Tina Louise Green, through counsel, filed the instant DIB application on September 28, 2012, under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-433. The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) initially denied plaintiff's application and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. at 98-108). Plaintiff requested and received a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) held on January 9, 2015 before the Honorable Benjamin McMillion. (Tr. at 34-63). The ALJ determined that plaintiff was not entitled to disability benefits in a decision dated April 9, 2015. (Tr. at 14-33).

         Plaintiff filed a request for review by the Appeals Council and submitted new evidence in support of her claim, which was incorporated into the administrative record. (Tr. at 9, 303-307). On July 20, 2016, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review, thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. at 1-5).

         Plaintiff timely filed the present civil action seeking judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) on September 19, 2016. (Doc. No. 2). On March 30, 2017, the PF&R recommended that the court deny Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, grant Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, and dismiss this case with prejudice.

         A detailed factual description of plaintiff's ailments and alleged disability can be found in the PF&R (Doc. No. 22 at 10- 17) and in the ALJ's decision (Tr. at 20-26). These descriptions adequately and faithfully summarize the factual information in the entire record, making it unnecessary to detail the medical evidence once more. Therefore, this opinion will only describe the facts as necessary to address plaintiff's specific objections.

         II. Standard of Review

         Pursuant to Rule 72(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the district court reviews de novo any part of a magistrate judge's disposition to which a party has properly filed an objection. However, this court is not required to review, de novo or under any other standard, the factual or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge regarding those portions of the findings or recommendations to which the parties have addressed no objections. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985).

         The court's review concerns only whether substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's conclusion that plaintiff failed to meet the conditions for entitlement established by and pursuant to the Social Security Act. If such substantial evidence exists, the final decision of the Commissioner must be affirmed. Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). Stated briefly, substantial evidence has been defined as such relevant evidence, considering the record as a whole, as might be found adequate to support a conclusion by a reasonable mind. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). “If there is evidence to justify a refusal to direct a verdict were the case before a jury, then there is ‘substantial evidence.'” Blalock v. Richardson, 483 F.2d 773, 776 (4th Cir. 1972) (quoting Laws v. Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640, 642 (4th Cir. 1966)). Supposing error by the Commissioner, this court need not reverse a decision “where the alleged error clearly had no bearing on the procedure used or the substance of the decision reached by the ALJ.” Ngarurih v. Ashcroft, 371 F.3d 182, 190 n. 8 (4th Cir. 2004).

         III. Plaintiff&# ...


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