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 Cheryl A. Eifert, 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 request for judgment on the
pleadings, grant the defendant's request for judgment on
the pleadings to affirm the Administrative Law Judge's
decision, affirm the final decision of the Commissioner, and
dismiss this action from the court's docket. Proposed
Findings & Rec. (“PF&R”) [ECF No. 15].
January 7, 2019, the plaintiff timely filed Objections [ECF
No. 18] to the Magistrate Judge's PF&R. The defendant
filed a Response [ECF No. 19] on January 22, 2019, and the
plaintiff Replied [ECF No. 20] on January 29, 2019. The court
has reviewed de novo those portions of the Magistrate
Judge's PF&R to which the plaintiff objects and finds
that the objections lack merit. For the reasons stated
herein, the court ADOPTS and INCORPORATES
the findings and recommendation of the Magistrate Judge. The
court DENIES the plaintiff's request for
judgment on the pleadings [ECF No. 12],
GRANTS the defendant's request for
judgment on the pleadings to affirm the ALJ's decision
[ECF No. 13], AFFIRMS the final decision of
the Commissioner, and DISMISSES with
prejudice this action from the court's docket.
factual background of this case is set forth in detail in the
PF&R and need not be repeated here. The court
ADOPTS the factual background and undisputed
facts as set forth in the Magistrate Judge's 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). 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).
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 Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB,
305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). Further, “[substantial
evidence] 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.
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 plaintiff is disabled, the
responsibility for that decision falls on the [Commissioner]
(or the [Commissioner's] designate, the [Administrative
Law Judge]).” 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).
plaintiff makes three objections, which will be discussed in
The Plaintiff's Reply Brief
plaintiff argues that the Magistrate Judge failed to
adequately consider the arguments raised in his Reply Brief
[ECF No. 14] seeking judgment on the pleadings. That is, he
argues that the PF&R “is silent on the existence of
the [R]eply [B]rief beyond a few cursory, non-evaluative
citations.” Pl.'s Obj. 2. I find the
plaintiff's first objection to be wholly without merit.
The Magistrate Judge fairly considered all of the issues
addressed in the reply, including “special
accommodations, ” PF&R 26-30, the plaintiff's
ability to work while standing, id. at 30-35, the
reliability of the Vocational Expert (“VE”),
id. at 32-33, the plaintiff's reading of
Jones v. Apfel, id. at 27-28, ...