United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. CHAMBERS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Crystal Braman filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) on February 15, 2018, seeking review of the
Commissioner's Final Decision denying her application for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act. Compl., p. 1, ECF No. 2.
By standing order, this action was referred to the Honorable
Cheryl A. Eifert, United States Magistrate Judge, for
Proposed Findings and Recommendations
(“PF&R”). Standing Order, p. 2, ECF
No. 4. In her PF&R issued on January 1, 2019, Magistrate
Judge Eifert recommends this Court deny Plaintiff's
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, grant Defendant's
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, affirm the Final
Decision of the Commissioner, and dismiss this case from the
Court's docket. PF&R, pp. 1-2, ECF No. 12.
Plaintiff filed objections to the PF&R on February 18,
2019. Pl.'s Objs. to PF&R, ECF No. 13.
explained below, the Court DENIES
Plaintiff's objections (ECF No. 13),
ADOPTS Magistrate Judge Eiferts's
PF&R (ECF No. 12), DENIES
Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (ECF No.
10), GRANTS Defendant's Motion for
Judgment on the Pleadings (ECF No. 11),
AFFIRMS the Commissioner's Final
Decision, and DISMISSES the case.
protectively filed an application for Title II benefits on
February 25, 2014, alleging disability beginning on December
20, 2013. Transcript, p. 14, ECF Nos. 9-9-8.
Plaintiff alleged she became disabled due to arthritis, a
burned right hand, spondylosis, depression, bipolar disorder,
and fibromyalgia. Id. at 183-84, 207.
Plaintiff's claim was denied initially on June 27, 2014,
and again on November 18, 2014. Id. at 97-101,
104-10. An administrative hearing reviewing these denials was
held on March 10, 2017 with Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Donna J. Grit. Id. at 42-68. On
May 3, 2017, the ALJ denied the claims, finding Plaintiff had
not been under a disability at the relevant time.
Id. at 11-41. The Commissioner's decision became
final on December 18, 2017, when the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's Request for Review. Id. at 1-6.
Thereafter, Plaintiff filed the instant complaint with this
Court on February 15, 2018. Compl.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court must “make a de novo determination of those
portions of the . . . [Magistrate Judge's] proposed
findings or recommendations to which objection is
made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The Court is not
required to review the factual or legal conclusions to those
portions of the findings or recommendations to which no
objections are made. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140,
150 (1985). The scope of review is narrow; this Court must
uphold the Commissioner's factual findings “if they
are supported by substantial evidence and were reached
through application of the correct legal standard.”
Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589 (4th Cir. 1996).
evidence” is defined as “consist[ing] of more
than a mere scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less
than a preponderance.” Hays v. Sullivan, 907
F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). 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.
Id. If there is conflicting evidence and reasonable
minds could differ as to whether a claimant is disabled, it
is the Commissioner or his designate, the ALJ, who makes the
decision. Craig, 76 F.3d at 589 (citation omitted).
conducting this review, this Court must also address whether
the ALJ analyzed all the relevant evidence and sufficiently
explained the rationale in crediting or discrediting it.
Milburn Colliery Co. v. Hicks, 138 F.3d 524, 528
(4th Cir. 1998). While the Commissioner's decision must
“contain a statement of the case, in understandable
language, setting forth a discussion of the evidence, and
stating the Commissioner's determination and the reason
or reasons upon which it is based, ” 42 U.S.C. §
405(b)(1), “there is no rigid requirement that the ALJ
specifically refer to every piece of evidence in his
decision[.]” Reid v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
769 F.3d 861, 865 (4th Cir. 2014) (citing Dyer
v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005) (per
unstructured, two-page memorandum, Plaintiff objects as to
findings by the ALJ on matters of her “concentration,
persistence, or pace.” Pl.'s Objs. to
PF&R, at 1-2. These objections appear to be two
separate issues. First, Plaintiff alleges the magistrate
judge “deferred to the ALJ's assessment of
Plaintiff's abilities”, including the weight the
ALJ's decision gave to an opinion by Ms. Sunny Bell.
Id. Second, Plaintiff claims the ALJ ignored
evidence on the record. Id.
as the Plaintiff objects to the deference given to the
determination by the ALJ, this is without merit and
overruled. It is the duty of the ALJ, not the Court, to weigh
conflicting evidence. Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585,
589 (4th Cir. 1996). By Plaintiff's own admission, this
part of her objection is not based on the lack of substantial
evidence, but that the ALJ “gave only partial weight to
Ms. Bell's opinion[.]” Pl.'s Objs. to
PF&R, at 2. The ALJ specifically considered the
examination by Ms. Bell and offered her rationale as to why
this was only given partial weight. Transcript, at
30. This satisfies the test for substantial evidence.
Plaintiff's claims the ALJ lacked citation to certain
evidence and failed to reflect Ms. Bell's findings in her
limitations of pace and persistence are not legally sound. An
ALJ is not required to cite every piece of evidence in her
findings. Reid v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 769 F.3d
861, 865 (4th Cir. 2014). When the ALJ states that
the whole record was considered, the Court “take[s] her
at her word.” Id. (finding reference to a
general history of pain and evidence supporting a disability
claim is sufficient to show the matter was properly
considered). Even when there is a limitation on
concentration, persistence, or pace, it does not necessarily
translate into a limitation in a claimant's Residual
Functional Capacity (“RFC”). Mascio v.
Colvin, 780 F.3d 632, 638 (4th Cir. 2015) (“the
ALJ may find that the concentration, persistence, or pace
limitation does not affect [Claimant]'s ability to
claims the ALJ did not consider evidence that “she
received daily help from home health, including assistance
with meals, bathing, and caring for her hair[, ]” as
well as help from her daughter and assistance to complete
forms. Pl.'s Objs. to PF&R, at 2. Yet the AJ
specifically cited evidence of help from home heath;
assistance with meals; use of a chair in the shower; aid from
her boyfriend to wash her hair, shave, and dress; and stated
that she had considered all the evidence.
Transcript, at 14, 22. Ultimately, the ALJ found the
Plaintiff's assessment of her abilities were not entirely
consistent with medical and other evidence. Id. at
23. The absence of citation to a general claim that she
“receiv[ed] assistance from her daughter” and
“required assistance on multiple occasions to complete