United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia, Elkins
MATTHEW M. LEE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
PRESTON BAILEY UNITED-STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
day, the above-styled matter came before this Court for
consideration of the Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) of United States Magistrate Judge
James P. Mazzone [Doc. 17] and the pro se
plaintiff's Objections thereto [Doc. 19]. Pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), this Court is required to make a
de novo review of those portions of the magistrate
judge's findings to which objection is made. However,
failure to file objections permits the district court to
review the R&R under the standards that the district
court believes are appropriate, and under these
circumstances, the parties' right to de novo
review is waived. See Webb v. Califano, 468 F.Supp.
825 (E.D. Cal. 1979). Accordingly, this Court will conduct a
de novo review only as to those portions of the
R&R to which the plaintiff objected. The remaining
portions of the R&R will be reviewed for clear error. As
a result, it is the opinion of this Court that the R&R
should be ADOPTED.
February 8, 2014, the pro se plaintiff, Matthew
Morrison Lee, filed a Title II application for a period of
disability and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”), alleging a disability beginning July 30,
2003 [Doc. 10-2 at 13]. The plaintiff's claim was
initially denied on May 6, 2014, and again upon
reconsideration on August 20, 2014 [Id.].
Thereafter, the plaintiff filed a request for a hearing on
October 17, 2014 [Id.]. The plaintiff appeared
pro se and testified at a video hearing in
Morgantown, West Virginia on August 10, 2016 [Id.].
A vocational expert (“VE”) also testified
[Id.]. Plaintiff's parents also appeared but did
not testify as witnesses. On December 29, 2016, the ALJ
issued an unfavorable decision [Id. at 29]. The
Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review of
the ALJ's findings on January 23, 2018 [Id. at
March 26, 2018, plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court to
obtain judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security denying his application [Doc. 1]. The parties
filed cross motions for summary judgment [Docs. 13 & 14].
January 28, 2019, Magistrate Judge Mazzone entered his
R&R in which he concludes that the ALJ's decision
denying the plaintiff's application for DIB is supported
by substantial evidence and complied with the applicable law
[Doc. 17]. As such, the magistrate judge recommends that the
plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 13] be
denied and the defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
[Doc. 14] be granted. The magistrate judge further recommends
that the decision of the Commissioner be affirmed and the
case be dismissed with prejudice [Doc. 17]. On February 13,
2019, the plaintiff filed timely objections [Doc. 19].
Applicable Legal Standards
Judicial Review of an ALJ Decision
review of a final decision regarding disability benefits is
limited to determining whether the findings are supported by
substantial evidence and whether the correct law was applied.
See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “The findings . .
. as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall
be conclusive.” Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 390 (1971); Coffman v. Bowen, 829 F.2d
514, 517 (4th Cir. 1987). The phrase “‘supported
by substantial evidence'” means “‘such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.'” See
Perales, 402 U.S. at 401 (citing Consol. Edison Co.
v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). 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.
1966). Thus, “[i]t is not within the province of a
reviewing court to determine the weight of the evidence; nor
is it [the court's] function to substitute [its] judgment
. . . if [the] decision is supported by substantial
evidence.” Id. (citing Snyder v.
Ribicoff, 307 F.2d 518, 520 (4th Cir. 1962)).
Ultimately, it is the duty of the ALJ reviewing a case, and
not the responsibility of the courts, to make findings of
fact and to resolve conflicts in the evidence. King v.
Califano, 599 F.2d 597, 599 (4th Cir. 1979). “This
Court does not find facts or try the case de novo
when reviewing disability determinations.”
Id.; see also Seacrist v. Weinberger, 538
F.2d 1054, 1056-57 (4th Cir. 1976); and Hays v.
Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990).
Five-Step Evaluation Process
determine whether a claimant is disabled, the ALJ considers
the following five- step evaluation process:
Step One: Determine whether the claimant is engaging in
substantial gainful activity;
Step Two: Determine whether the claimant has a severe
Step Three: Determine whether the claimant has a listed
impairment (20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1) and
conduct a Residual Functional Capacity ...