United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division
PAMELA A. ALLISON, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
J. Conrad, Jr., United States District Judge
MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff Pamela
Allison's (“Plaintiff”) Motion for
Summary Judgment and supporting memorandum, (Doc. Nos. 9,
10); Defendant Carolyn Colvin's (“Defendant”)
Motion for Summary Judgment and supporting memorandum, (Doc.
Nos. 12, 13); the Magistrate Judge's Memorandum and
Recommendation (“M&R”), (Doc. No. 14),
recommending that this Court deny Plaintiff's Motion and
grant Defendant's Motion; and Plaintiff's Objections
to the Magistrate Judge's M&R, (Doc. No. 15).
Defendant did not file a reply to Plaintiff's Objections,
and the time for doing so has passed.
party has objected to the Magistrate Judge's statement of
the factual and procedural background of this case. Thus, the
Court adopts the facts as set forth in the M&R.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
district court may assign dispositive pretrial matters
pending before the court to a magistrate judge for
“proposed findings of fact and recommendations.”
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). The Federal Magistrate Act
provides that “a district court shall make a de novo
determination of those portions of the report or specific
proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is
made.” Id. at § 636(b)(1)(C); Camby
v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 200 (4th Cir. 1983). Under Rule
72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a district
court judge shall make a de novo determination of any portion
of an M&R to which specific written objection has been
made. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). Nonetheless, “when objections
to strictly legal issues are raised and no factual issues are
challenged, de novo review of the record may be dispensed
with.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47
(4th Cir. 1982). Similarly, de novo review is not required by
the statute “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.” Id. Ultimately, a district
judge is responsible for the final determination and outcome
of the case, and accordingly this Court has conducted a
careful review of the Magistrate Judge's M&R.
review of the Commissioner's decision, the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and § 1383(c)(3),
limits this Court's review of a final decision of the
Commissioner to: (1) whether substantial evidence supports
the Commissioner's decision, Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390, 401 (1971); and (2) whether
the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards,
Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir.
1990); see also Hunter v. Sullivan, 993 F.2d 31, 34
(4th Cir. 1992) (per curiam). The District Court does not
review a final decision of the Commissioner de novo.
Smith v. Schweiker, 795 F.2d 343, 345 (4th Cir.
1986); King v. Califano, 599 F.2d 597, 599 (4th Cir.
1979); Blalock v. Richardson, 483 F.2d 773, 775 (4th
Cir. 1972). As the Social Security Act provides, “[t]he
findings of the [Commissioner] as to any fact, if supported
by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive.” 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). In Smith v. Heckler, the
Fourth Circuit noted that “substantial evidence”
has been defined as being “more than a scintilla and
[it] must do more than create a suspicion of the existence of
a fact to be established. It means such relevant evidence as
a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” 782 F.2d 1176, 1179 (4th Cir. 1986)
(quoting Perales, 402 U.S. at 401) (brackets in
original); see also Seacrist v. Weinberger, 538 F.2d
1054, 1056-57 (4th Cir. 1976) (“We note that it is the
responsibility of the [Commissioner] and not the courts to
reconcile inconsistencies in the medical evidence . . .
Fourth Circuit has long emphasized that it is not for a
reviewing court to weigh the evidence again, nor to
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner,
assuming the Commissioner's final decision is supported
by substantial evidence. Hays, 907 F.2d at 1456;
see also Smith, 795 F.2d at 345; Blalock,
483 F.2d at 775. Indeed, this is true even if the reviewing
court disagrees with the outcome-so long as there is
“substantial evidence” in the record to support
the final decision below. Lester v. Schweiker, 683
F.2d 838, 841 (4th Cir. 1982).
Magistrate Judge issued an M&R and found that the ALJ did
not commit any errors and that his conclusions were supported
by substantial evidence. (Doc. No. 14 at 8). Plaintiff timely
filed objections to the Magistrate Judge's M&R, in
which she asserts that the Magistrate Judge erred by
concluding that “the ALJ's interpretation of a
‘moderate' limitation to include medium work was
supported by substantial evidence and consistent with Dr.
[Aregai] Girmay's opinion.” (Doc. No. 15 at 2).
Court has carefully reviewed Plaintiff's and
Defendant's summary judgment briefings, the record, the
M&R, Plaintiff's objections to the M&R, and
Defendant's response to Plaintiff's objections, and
in doing so considered each of Plaintiff's arguments de
novo. The Court finds that the Magistrate Judge already
thoroughly addressed Plaintiff's objection, which also
appeared in the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgement.
Furthermore, the Magistrate Judge and the ALJ applied the
proper legal standards. This Court agrees with the Magistrate
Judge that substantial evidence supports each of the
ALJ's findings that were contested by the Plaintiff in
her Motion for Summary Judgment.
the Magistrate Judge has already adequately addressed
Plaintiff's objection in its M&R, the Court will
briefly discuss Plaintiff's objection further. Plaintiff
dedicates her brief to arguing that Dr. Girmay's written
statement that Plaintiff's “limitation is moderate,
” (Tr. 352; Doc. 8-8 at 85), is inconsistent with the
ALJ's conclusion that Plaintiff's residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) is a variant of medium work,
specifically, that Plaintiff has the RFC to:
“lift or carry fifty pounds occasionally, twenty-five
pounds frequently; stand or walk for six hours out of an
eight-hour workday; and sit for six hours out of an
eight-hour workday . . . may occasionally climb ladders . . .
must avoid exposure to fumes and hazards . . . [and] may
perform simple routine, repetitive tasks, in a stable
environment with occasional public contact.”
(Tr. 21; Doc. No. 8-3 at 21). Plaintiff's contention is
that Dr. Girmay's opinion that Plaintiff has
“moderate” physical limitation is inconsistent
with the above RFC. (Doc. No. 15 at 2). The Court fails to
see the inconsistency. First, as the Magistrate Judge noted,
“moderate” is not a vocational term as it relates
to the RFC. (Doc. No. 14 at 7). Thus, the ALJ must take that
generic statement and incorporate into an RFC determination
which is what the ALJ did here. ...