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 Dwane L. Tinsley, 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 Magistrate
Judge has submitted findings of fact and recommended that the
court grant the plaintiff's motion for judgment on the
pleadings to the extent the plaintiff seeks remand, deny the
defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings, reverse
the final decision of the Commissioner, and remand this case
for further proceedings, and dismiss this matter from the
court's docket. Prop. Fin. & Rec. 1 [ECF No. 9]. The
defendant filed objections to the Magistrate Judge's
Proposed Findings and Recommendation [ECF No. 10].
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 are
meritorious. For the reasons set forth below, the Court
DECLINES TO ADOPT the findings and
recommendation of the Magistrate Judge [ECF No. 9],
DENIES the plaintiff's motion for
judgment on the pleadings [ECF No. 7],
GRANTS the defendant's motion for
judgment on the pleadings [ECF No. 8],
AFFIRMS the final decision of the
Commissioner, and DISMISSES this action from
the Court's docket.
Factual and Procedural History
April 26, 2013, the claimant, Melisa J. Staats, filed a Title
II application for disability insurance benefits alleging
disability beginning October 15, 2008. Prop. Fin. & Rec.
1. The claim was denied initially as well as on further
reconsideration. Id. On November 4, 2016, Staats
filed a complaint before this court. Compl. [ECF No. 1].
February 3, 2017, Staats filed a Brief in Support of Judgment
on the Pleadings [ECF No. 7]. In it, Staats argues that
reversal is necessary because “the ALJ failed to
properly assess Staats's fibromyalgia.”
Id. at 1. On February 28, 2017, the defendant, Nancy
A. Berryhill, filed a Brief in Support of Defendant's
Decision, arguing that the ALJ correctly handled Staat's
claim. [ECF No. 8].
March 2, 2018, the Magistrate Judge entered Proposed Findings
and Recommendation, suggesting that the Court find that the
ALJ properly addressed the claimant's fibromyalgia. Prop.
Fin. & Rec. 10. While Staats did not raise the issue in
this appeal, the Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court
find that the ALJ's step three analysis of Staat's
coronary artery disease was deficient because “the ALJ
failed to explain how that medical evidence demonstrated that
the criteria for Listing 4.04 was not met.”
Id. According to the Magistrate Judge, this omission
makes remand necessary. On March 3, 2018, the defendant
timely filed objections to the Magistrate Judge's
findings and recommendation. Def.'s Objs. Prop. Fin.
& Rec. On March 27, 2018, the plaintiff responded.
Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Objs. [ECF No. 11]. These
matters are currently before the Court.
Standards of Review
Review of the PF&R
district court “shall make a de novo determination of
those portions of the report or specified proposed findings
or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). This court is not, however,
required to review, under a de novo or any other standard,
the factual or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge as
to those portions of the findings or recommendation to which
no objections are addressed. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S.
140, 150 (1985).
Review of the ALJ's Findings and 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). 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 ...