United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. CHAMBERS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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 deny
Claimant's request, grant Defendant's request, affirm
the final decision of the Commissioner, and dismiss this
matter from the Court's docket. Plaintiff filed an
objection to the PF&R on April 24, 2017. ECF No. 14. For
the following reasons, the Court ADOPTS AND
INCORPORATES HEREIN the Magistrate Judge's
filed applications for Title II and Title XVI benefits on
July 21, 2014, alleging disability beginning June 19, 2014
due to “stomach pain, panic attacks, arthritis, chronic
migraine headaches, anxiety disorder, depression, bronchitis,
fibromyalgia, and bowel disorder.” ECF No. 13, at 2.
Her claims were denied throughout the preliminary stages of
the claims process and, after an administrative hearing, an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) entered a
decision finding Claimant not disabled. Id. The
denial of benefits became the final decision of the
Commissioner on August 17, 2016. Id.
filed the present action on October 17, 2016, seeking
judicial review of the administrative decision pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). Id. After the Complaint was
answered, both Claimant and Defendant filed Briefs in Support
of Judgment on the Pleadings. ECF Nos. 11, 12. The Magistrate
Judge, upon review, filed Proposed Findings and
Recommendations on April 7, 2017. ECF No. 13. Claimant filed
an objection to the PF&R on April 24, 2017, ECF No. 14,
and Defendant filed a timely response on May 2, 2017, ECF No.
15. Claimant's sole objection to the PF&R is that the
ALJ's “proposed stipulation” needs further
clarification before her claims may be properly dismissed.
ECF No. 14.
Standards of Review
Standard of Review of PF&R
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.
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).
noted, Claimant's sole objection to the PF&R rests
upon the lack of clarification regarding a statement the ALJ
made during the administrative hearing. ECF No. 14.
Accordingly, the Court restricts its review and examination
to this statement and its effect upon the substantial
evidence of the record.
the administrative hearing of this case, the presiding ALJ
heard testimony from William Tanzey, a vocational expert. Tr.
at 90. In the course of his testimony, Mr. Tanzey was asked
to review Dr. Ronald Chattin's assessment of Claimant
dated March 25, 2015. Tr. at 92. Mr. Tanzey was then asked to
opine on the physical limitations of Claimant if the
assessment was to be taken as true. Tr. at 94. Mr. Tanzey
testified that, if the assessment was true, Claimant would be
unable to perform even sedentary jobs. Id. To
achieve efficiency in the hearing, the ALJ soon thereafter
made the following statement: “I'll stipulate that
any [vocational expert] worth his salt with those limitations
would say there's no jobs.” Tr. at 95.
apparently interpreted this statement to mean that the ALJ
was “stipulating” to “the opinions of the
treating physicians as those opinions related to the
plaintiff's disability.” ECF No. 11, at 4.
Accordingly, Claimant asserts that she relied on the
ALJ's stipulation to her detriment. As discussed in the
PF&R, however, the ALJ properly afforded “little
weight” to the opinions of Dr. Chattin. ECF No. 13, at
27. The Magistrate Judge found that the ALJ had adequately
analyzed Dr. Chattin's medical ...