United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Bluefield
ERNIE M. GRAHAM o.b.o. ANNETTE R. GRAHAM Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
A. Faber, Senior United States District Judge
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 Dwane L. Tinsley 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). On August 31, 2017, Magistrate Judge Tinsley
issued Proposed Findings & Recommendation
(“PF&R”), recommending that this court deny
Claimant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and
Memorandum in Support of Claimant's Motion for Judgment
on the Pleadings, affirm the final decision of the
Commissioner, and dismiss this case with prejudice. ECF No.
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.
September 14, 2017, plaintiff timely filed objections to the
PF&R. ECF No. 12. The Government responded seven days
later. ECF No. 13.
Rae Graham, through her husband, Ernie Graham, and counsel,
filed the instant DIB application on July 31, 2011, under
Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
401-433. The Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) initially denied plaintiff's
application on February 24, 2012, and again upon
reconsideration on March 29, 2013. Plaintiff requested and
received a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) on June 4, 2014. The ALJ determined that
plaintiff was not entitled to disability benefits in a
decision dated September 11, 2014. (Tr. at 9-24). The Appeals
Council denied plaintiff's request for review on February
18, 2016, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of
the Commissioner. (Tr. At 1-3).
timely filed the present civil action seeking judicial review
under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). ECF No. 2.
detailed factual description of plaintiff's ailments and
alleged disability can be found in the PF&R (ECF No. 11,
p. 3- 10) and in the ALJ's decision. (Tr. at 11-22).
These descriptions adequately and faithfully summarize the
factual information in the record, making it unnecessary to
detail the medical evidence again. Therefore, this opinion
will only describe the facts as necessary to address
plaintiff's specific objections.
Standard of Review
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).
court's review is limited to a determination as to
whether there is substantial evidence to support 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). 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.
that disputes a PF&R “may serve and file
specific written objections to the
[PF&R].” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2) (emphasis added).
This court is required to undertake a de novo review of
proper objections to the magistrate judge's PF&R.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); see also 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(C). Untimely objections of the magistrate
judge's PF&R are reviewed only for clear error, if at
all. Compare Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee
notes (“When no timely objection is filed, the court
need only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the
face of the record in order to accept the
recommendation.”), with Thomas v. Arn, 474
U.S. 140, 149-52 (1985) (“Petitioner first argues that
a failure to object waives only de novo review and that the
district judge must still review the magistrate's report
under some lesser standard. However, 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(C) simply does not provide for such
Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Proposed Findings
and Recommendations” is virtually a verbatim copy of
the previously filed “Brief in Support of
Plaintiff's Complaint.” Compare ECF No.
12, with ECF No. 10. The only addition worth noting
is a section at the end where plaintiff asserts that the
magistrate judge adopted the ALJ's findings in their
entirety, and therefore “all arguments made against the
Commissioners [sic] decision be deemed to be objections to
Judge Tinsley's proposed findings and
recommendation.” ECF No. 12, ...