United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
T. Copenhaver, Jr. United States District Judge
are the objections to the magistrate judge's Proposed
Findings and Recommendation (“PF&R”), filed
by defendant Nancy A. Berryhill (the
“Commissioner”) on March 13, 2018.
plaintiff, David McRoberts (“Claimant”),
initiated this action in this court on October 17, 2016,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2016). Claimant seeks
review of the Commissioner's final decision denying his
application for disability insurance benefits.
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 613(b)(1)(B) and the
standing order in this district, this action was referred to
United States Magistrate Judge Dwane L. Tinsley for findings
of fact and recommendations for disposition. On March 17,
2017, the Commissioner filed an answer to Claimant's
neither party moved for judgment, the magistrate judge, on
February 28, 2018, submitted his PF&R “on the
merits of the case.” (PF&R 1.) The magistrate judge
found that “[t]he [administrative law judge's
(“ALJ”)] step three evaluation was
inadequate.” (Id. 7.) Step three, which is
part of a mandatory five-step analysis conducted by the
Commissioner, involves comparing a claimant's impairments
to listed impairments in the social security regulations.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii) (2017). The
magistrate judge reasoned that “[e]ven considering the
ALJ's statements outside of step three, without a
discussion about the . . . criteria [of Listings 13.13,
13.14, and 13.25] and how those requirements apply to the
ALJ's findings, the analysis is incomplete and precludes
meaningful review.” (PF&R 7.) Thus, the magistrate
judge recommends that the court
remand the final decision of the Commissioner for further
consideration under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
and dismiss this matter from the Court's docket.
(Id. 8 (emphases omitted).)
March 13, 2018, the Commissioner filed objections to the
PF&R. The Commissioner contends that “the unique
circumstances in this case do not render the ALJ's step
three decision regarding Listings 13.13, 13.14, and 13.25
beyond meaningful judicial review.” (Obj. 3.) Claimant
did not respond.
Standard of Review
court reviews de novo those portions of the magistrate
judge's PF&R to which objections are timely filed. 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B); see Orpiano v. Johnson,
687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). On the other hand, the
standard for review of the Commissioner's decision is
rather deferential to the Commissioner, for “a
reviewing court must ‘uphold the determination when an
ALJ has applied correct legal standards and the ALJ's
factual findings are supported by substantial
evidence.'” Brown v. Comm'r Soc. Sec.
Admin., 873 F.3d 251, 267 (4th Cir. 2017) (quoting
Preston v. Heckler, 769 F.2d 988, 990 (4th Cir.
1985)); Oppenheim v. Finch, 495 F.2d 396, 397 (4th
Cir. 1974) (court must scrutinize the record as a whole to
determine whether the conclusions reached are supported by
substantial evidence); see also 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). Substantial evidence is that which “a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 401 (1971) (internal citations omitted); accord
Brown, 873 F.3d at 267.
reviewing for substantial evidence, [a district court does]
not undertake to reweigh conflicting evidence, make
credibility determinations, or substitute [its] judgment for
that of the ALJ.” Johnson v. Barnhart, 434
F.3d 650, 653 (4th Cir. 2005) (per curiam). Substantial
evidence is by definition more than “a mere scintilla,
” Smith v. Chater, 99 F.3d 635, 638 (4th Cir.
1996), but “may be somewhat less than a preponderance,
” Blalock v. Richardson, 483 F.2d 773, 776
(4th Cir. 1972) (quoting Laws v. Celebrezze, 368
F.2d 640, 642 (4th Cir. 1996)).
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4) sets forth “[t]he
five-step sequential evaluation process” to be applied
by the Commissioner when evaluating an application for
disability. The United States Court of ...