Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Gibson v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division

February 8, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         This action for judicial review of an administrative determination under the Social Security Act was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for proposed findings of fact and recommendation for disposition (“PF&R”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). Now pending before the Court are Claimant's request for judgment on the pleadings and Defendant's request to affirm the decision below. The Magistrate Judge recommends that this Court grant Claimant's request, deny Defendant's request, vacate the final decision of the Commissioner, and remand this matter back to the Commissioner for further administrative proceedings. Defendant filed an objection to the PF&R on August 15, 2017. ECF No. 21. For the following reasons, the Court ADOPTS AND INCORPORATES HEREIN the Magistrate Judge's PF&R.

         I. Background

         As noted in the PF&R, “Claimant filed her application for Title XVI benefits on December 11, 2013, alleging disability since October 10, 2013. . .” ECF No. 20, at 2. After several administrative decisions and appeals, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) entered a decision denying Claimant's claims on June 26, 2015. Id. The Appeals Council subsequently denied Claimant's Request for Review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of Defendant. Id.

         Claimant filed the present action on January 25, 2017, seeking judicial review of the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). ECF No. 2. After all responsive pleadings were filed, Claimant filed a Memorandum in Support of Judgment on the Pleadings in which she alleged that the ALJ's decision contained multiple errors including that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate the medical opinions of Claimant's treating physician. ECF No. 17. In response to Plaintiff's Memorandum, Defendant filed a Brief in Support of Defendant's Decision, ECF No. 18.

         II. Standards of Review

         a. Standard of Review of PF&R

         In reviewing the PF&R, this Court must “make a de novo determination of those portions of the … [Magistrate Judge's] proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In doing so, the Court can “accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” Id. In this case, the only objection made to the PF&R was brought by Defendant. Defendant claims that the Magistrate Judge erred in concluding that the “ALJ was required to recontact [Claimant's] physician prior to discounting the treating physician's opinion.” Since this is the primary basis upon which the Magistrate Judge recommends that this Court reverse the final decision of the Commissioner and remand this matter for further proceedings, Defendant asks the Court to find instead that the ALJ was not required to recontact the physician and, accordingly, to affirm the Commissioner's final decision.

         b. Standard of Review of Commissioner's Decision

         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), “[t]he court shall have power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing.” After reviewing the prescribed materials, if the Court finds that the Commissioner's decision is supported by “substantial evidence, ” the Court must affirm the decision. Blalock v. Richardson, 483 F.2d 773, 775 (4th Cir. 1972).

         Before the Court may inquire as to whether a decision is supported by “substantial evidence, ” however, it “must first ascertain whether the agency has discharged its duty to consider all relevant evidence.” Sterling Smokeless Coal Co. v. Akers, 131 F.3d 438, 439 (4th Cir. 1997) (internal quotation and citation omitted). “Unless the Secretary has analyzed all evidence and has sufficiently explained the weight he has given to obviously probative exhibits, to say that his decision is supported by substantial evidence approaches an abdication of the court's duty to scrutinize the record as a whole to determine whether the conclusions reached are rational.” Arnold v. Sec'y of Health, Educ. and Welfare, 567 F.2d 258, 259 (4th Cir. 1977) (internal quotation and citation omitted).

         III. Discussion

         Claimant began complaining of lower extremity edema in October, 2013. ECF No. 20, at 10. In November, 2013, Dr. Amy Garmestani, M.D. became Claimant's primary care physician. Id. Claimant's care relationship with Dr. Garmestani continued throughout 2014 during which time Dr. Garmestani treated Claimant for lower extremity edema among other medical conditions and complaints. Id. at 11. Throughout her time as Claimant's treating physician Dr. Garmestani made notes that pertained to these conditions and complaints, including notes regarding Claimant's lower extremity edema. Id. At one point Dr. Garmestani made the following note on her prescription pad: “[Claimant] has chronic dependent edema for which she is prescribed medication. Recommendations for treatment at time include low sodium diet & elevation of the lower extremities.” Id. at 11-12.

         In support of her claims, specifically for edema and colitis, Claimant submitted this prescription pad note to the ALJ as evidence of her medical disabilities. ECF No. 12-2, at 20. The ALJ, after reviewing this note, concluded that the treating physician's opinion was to be accorded “little weight.” Id. He found that Dr. Garmestani's opinion was “vague” and “[did] not detail how ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.