United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. GOODWIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
action was referred to the Honorable Omar J. Aboulhosn,
United States Magistrate Judge, for submission to this court
of proposed findings of fact and recommendation for
disposition, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). The
court has reviewed de novo those portions of the
Magistrate Judge's findings and recommendation to which
the defendant objects and finds that the objections lack
merit. For the reasons set forth below, the court
ADOPTS and incorporates herein the findings
and recommendation of the Magistrate Judge [ECF No. 22]. The
court GRANTS the plaintiff's request
that this matter be remanded back to the Commissioner [ECF
No. 17], DENIES the defendant's request
to affirm the ALJ's decision [ECF No. 20],
REVERSES the final decision of the
Commissioner, REMANDS this matter back to
the Commissioner, and DISMISSES this action
from the court's docket.
Statement of Facts
explained in more depth in the PF&R, Christopher Clark
Cassidy, the claimant, applied for Title II benefits on July
19, 2013. Proposed Findings & Recom. 2 (PF&R”)
[ECF No. 22]. He alleges that he became disabled on April 12,
2012, because of “arthritis, rod and 4 screws and cage
in lower back, back injury, herniated discs, bulging discs,
permanent nerve damage, depression, and insomnia.”
Id. After several administrative decisions and
appeals, an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
entered a decision denying the claimant's claims on April
19, 2017. Id. On June 13, 2017, the claimant timely
brought the present action seeking judicial review of the
administrative decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
claimant filed a motion requesting that the court remand the
case back to the Commissioner [ECF No. 17]. The defendant
filed a motion seeking judgment on the pleadings [ECF No.
20], and the claimant filed a reply [ECF No. 21]. These
briefs are currently before the court. The Magistrate Judge
submitted findings of fact and recommended that the court
grant the plaintiff's request for judgment on the
pleadings to the extent that this matter be remanded back to
the Commissioner, deny the defendant's request to affirm
the ALJ's decision, reverse the final decision of the
Commissioner, and remand this matter back to the
Commissioner. On January 5, 2017, the defendant timely filed
objections to the Magistrate Judge's findings and
Standards of Review
Standard of Review of PF&R
reviewing the PF&R, the 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.
Standard of Review of Commissioner's Decision
Social Security Act states that “[t]he findings of the
Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported
by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive.” 42
U.S.C.A.§ 405(g) (West Supp. 1998). The Supreme Court
has defined substantial evidence as “such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales,
402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co.
v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). Further, “[i]t
consists of more than a mere scintilla of evidence but may be
somewhat less than a preponderance.” Laws v.
Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640, 642 (4th Cir. 1966).
reviewing the case for substantial evidence, the court does
not re-weigh conflicting evidence, make determinations as to
credibility, or substitute its own judgment for that of the
Commissioner. Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456
(4th Cir. 1990). Rather, the court must adopt the
Commissioner's findings if there is evidence in support
of such findings “to justify a refusal to direct a
verdict were the case before a jury.” Blalock v.
Richardson, 483 F.2d 773, 776 (4th Cir. 1972).
“Where conflicting evidence allows reasonable minds to
differ as to whether a claimant is disabled, the
responsibility for that decision falls on the [Commissioner]
(or the [Commissioner's] designate, the ALJ).”
Walker v. Bowen, 834 F.2d 635, 640 (7th Cir. 1987).
Thus, even if the court would have reached a different
decision, it must nonetheless defer to the conclusions of the
ALJ if such conclusions are bolstered by substantial evidence
and were reached through a correct application of relevant
law. See Coffman v. Bowen, 829 F.2d 514, 517 (4th
the only objections made to the PF&R were made by the
defendant. The defendant claims that the Magistrate Judge
erred in concluding that remand is necessary for (1) further
evaluation of Dr. Patel's February 2010 opinion, and (2)
further development of the record regarding the
claimant's knee impairment. Def.'s Objections to the
Findings & Recom. of the U.S. Magistrate Judge 1-8 [ECF
Magistrate Judge found that remand is appropriate, in part,
because the ALJ's valuation of Dr. Patel's opinion
was not rational. On February 10, 2010, Dr. Patel released an
opinion about the claimant's ability to return to work.
PF&R 26. Specifically, Dr. Patel found “if he can
do light duty where he can lift no more than 10 pounds and in
a sedentary type position where he can sit 15 minutes and
stand 15 minutes at a time, that might be an option;
otherwise, I recommend he continue to stay off work.”
Id. The ALJ assigned partial weight to this opinion.
Id. It should not have, however, considered this
opinion at all for ...