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Pierantozzi v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia

November 17, 2017

GARY M. PIERANTOZZI, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          GINA M. GROH CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On this 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 entered the R&R on August 30, 2017. ECF No. 14. In the R&R, Magistrate Judge Seibert recommends the Court grant the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 12] because the Administrative Law Judge complied with the applicable laws and her decision is supported by substantial evidence. Magistrate Judge Seibert recommends the Court deny the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 11.

         I. Background

         Gary M. Pierantozzi (“Plaintiff”) filed an application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income on August 29, 2013. The application was initially denied on January 20, 2014, and again upon reconsideration on March 28, 2014. The Plaintiff then requested a hearing, which was held before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), who determined that the Plaintiff was not disabled. The Appeals Council denied the Plaintiff's request for review, and he timely filed his complaint in this Court on February 24, 2017. Thereafter, the Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on June 8, 2017. ECF No. 11. The Commissioner filed her motion for summary judgement on July 10, 2017. ECF No. 12. Magistrate Judge Seibert then entered the R&R on August 30, 2017. ECF No. 14.

         II. Standards of Review

         A. Review of the R&R

         Pursuant 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.

         B. Review of the ALJ Decision

         The 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, 229 (1938)).

         A 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.”).

         C. Evaluation Process

         To 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. At step 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 perform any other work. See Davidson v. Astrue, Civil Action No. 2:11-CV-55, 2012 WL 667296, at *3 (N.D. W.Va. Feb. 28, 2012) (citing 20 C.F.R. ' 404.1520(a)(4)).

         Here, under the five-step process, the ALJ found the Plaintiff was not disabled from any time between July 1, 2013, the alleged onset date of his disability, through December 11, 2015, the date of the ALJ's decision.

         III. ...


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