United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
T. Copenhaver, Jr., Senior United States District Judge.
are the objections to the Magistrate Judge's Proposed
Findings and Recommendation (“PF&R”), filed
by the plaintiff, Linda Kay Reed (“Claimant”), on
July 22, 2019.
18, 2018, Claimant instituted this civil action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Claimant seeks judicial review of
defendant Andrew Saul's (“Commissioner”)
administrative decision, which denied her application for
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
action was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Dwane
L. Tinsley for consideration in accordance with 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(B) and the standing order in this district.
Claimant and the Commissioner have filed cross motions for
judgment on the pleadings.
Standard of Review
court reviews de novo those portions of the magistrate
judge's PF&R to which objections are timely filed. 28
U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(B); see Orpiano v. Johnson,
687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). On the other hand, the
standard for review of the Commissioner's decision is
rather deferential to the Commissioner under the Social
Security Act, for “a reviewing court must ‘uphold
the determination when an ALJ has applied correct legal
standards and the ALJ's factual findings are supported by
substantial evidence.'” Brown v. Comm'r
Soc. Sec. Admin., 873 F.3d 251, 267 (4th Cir. 2017)
(quoting Preston v. Heckler, 769 F.2d 988, 990 (4th
Cir. 1985)); see 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Oppenheim v.
Finch, 495 F.2d 396, 397 (4th Cir. 1974) (stating that
the court must scrutinize the record as a whole to determine
whether the conclusions reached are supported by substantial
evidence). Substantial evidence is that which “a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 401 (1971) (internal citations omitted); accord Brown,
873, F.3d at 267.
asserts that the ALJ's decision was not based on
substantial evidence. She advances two objections in support
of that contention. First, Claimant contends that the ALJ
failed to consider the severity of her right eye strabismic
amblyopia at step two of the sequential analysis
process. She claims that the question of whether
Claimant was “legally blind” - or that her eye
had reduced visual acuity of 20/200 or less -“was not
an issue in this case.” Obj. 3. Rather, the ALJ was
“compelled by SSR 85-28 to consider Reed's visual
impairments” in rendering her finding. Id.
Claimant's assertion to the contrary, the ALJ properly
considered the impairment of the Claimant's right eye in
her analysis. As the magistrate judge noted in the PF&R,
the ALJ found that Claimant had double vision during panic
attacks, but that the “objective evidence does not
establish double vision as a separate medically determinable
impairment.” PF&R 13; Tr. at 14. In support
thereof, the ALJ referenced a January 12, 2015 Social
Security Disability Determination in which Claimant's
treating physician, Dr. Stanwick, indicated that she had no
visual field abnormalities, visual acuities of 20/60 in her
right eye, and visual acuities of 20/20 in her left eye. Tr.
at 14, 319. On September 22, 2016, Dr. Stanwick performed
another examination, which reported that her right eye had a
visual acuity of 20/125 when incorrected and 20/80 when
corrected. See PF&R 14. He prescribed reading glasses as
her plan of treatment. Tr. at 418.
Claimant asserts that the question of whether she was
“legally blind” was not in issue, she placed this
very question in issue by claiming that she was
“basically blind” in her right eye. See Tr. 89;
Br. in Supp. J. Plead. 5. The magistrate judge clarified in
his PF&R that despite this assertion, the medical
documentation from Dr. Stanwick showed that Claimant's
visual acuity in her right eye does not meet the requirement
of reduced visual acuity of 20/200 or less.
magistrate judge correctly observes in the PF&R, the
record is devoid of any evidence suggesting that
Claimant's “visual limitation would interfere in
her ability to perform basic work activities.” PF&R
14. The determination of the ALJ, that Claimant's
Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”) “did
not require a functional limitation in her ability to perform
work-related activities due to her reduced visual acuity,
” is thus supported by substantial evidence. See id.
Claimant objects to ALJ's failure to “build a
logical bridge” from the evidence to her conclusion
that Claimant could “work occasionally with three
people.” Obj. 4-5. She cites Thomas v.
Berryhill, 916 F.3d 307, 311 (4th Cir. 2019) in support,
which held that a “proper RFC analysis has three
components: (1) evidence, (2) logical explanation, and (3)
conclusion, ” and the “[s]econd component, the
ALJ's logical explanation, is just as important as the
other two.” Id. at 5.
objection is without merit. Although the ALJ is required to
make a conclusion based upon the evidence on the record, the
standard of review of the ALJ's factual findings is
whether they are supported by substantial evidence - that is,
that which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion (emphasis added). Here, the ALJ
accounted for the Claimant's limitations of social
functioning by limiting her interaction with other people. As
the magistrate judge explained in his PF&R, the ALJ found
various mental impairments of the Claimant based on the
evidence of record and those findings were consistent with
what the medical evidence revealed. See PF&R 14-15. That
the ALJ's finding that Claimant “would be limited
to working in groups of three “is not reflected in any
treatment note, ” is of no moment. See PF&R 5. As
the magistrate judge noted, the ALJ found Claimant to
“have severe mental impairments of generalized anxiety
disorder with social phobia, sensory integration disorder,
and dysthymic disorder resulted in moderate restrictions in
understanding, remembering, or applying information; marked
limitations in interacting with others; moderate limitations
in concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; and no
limitations in adapting or managing oneself.” PF&R
14-15. Those findings are consistent with the treatment notes
of three different physicians and the assessments of both of