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Manley v. Berryhill

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

July 16, 2018

DONNA MANLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH R. GOODWIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         This 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 Magistrate Judge has submitted findings of fact and recommended that the court deny the plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings, grant the defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings, affirm the final decision of the Commissioner, and dismiss this action from the court's docket. Proposed Findings & Rec. (“PF&R”) [ECF No. 14].

         On October 20, 2017, the plaintiff filed timely objections to the Magistrate Judge's findings and recommendation. Pl.'s Obj. to PF&R [ECF No. 15]. The defendant did not respond. The court has reviewed de novo those portions of the Magistrate Judge's findings and recommendation to which the plaintiff objects and finds that the objections lack merit. For the reasons herein, the court ADOPTS and incorporates herein the findings and recommendation of the Magistrate Judge. The court DENIES the plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings [ECF No. 12], GRANTS the defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings [ECF No. 13], AFFIRMS the final decision of the Commissioner, and DISMISSES this action from the court's docket.

         II. Statement of Facts

         After de novo review of those portions of the Magistrate Judge's PF&R to which objections were filed, the court ADOPTS the statement of relevant facts and procedural history set forth in the report.

         III. Standard of Review

         A 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). In addition, this court need not conduct a de novo review when a party “makes general and conclusory objections that do not direct the Court to a specific error in the magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir.1982).

         The 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. § 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).

         In 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 [Administrative Law Judge, ] 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 Cir. 1987).

         IV. Analysis

         The plaintiff makes three objections to the Magistrate Judge's PF&R. First, she objects to his finding that the ALJ fairly assessed the opinions of the plaintiff's treating physician, Mohammed K. Hasan, M.D. Second, she objects to the Magistrate Judge's findings regarding the Residual Function Capacity (“RFC”) Assessment. Finally, she objects to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation for disposition. I will consider each objection separately.

         a. Weight Given to Treating Physician, Mohammad K. Hasan, M.D.

         First, the plaintiff object to the Magistrate Judge's finding that the ALJ fairly assessed the opinions of the plaintiff's treating physician, Mohammed K. Hasan, M.D. The ALJ gave “little weight” to Dr. Hasan's opinions as referenced in the two medical assessments provided in February and April 2014. Tr. at 18-19 [ECF No. 10-2 at 19- 20]. The ALJ justified giving Dr. Hasan's opinions little weight by explaining that “Dr. Hasan did not support his opinion with an explanation, and his opinion is not supported by the record, which showed that the ...


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