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Lockowitz v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Eastern Division

February 22, 2017

RICHARD LOCKOWITZ, Plaintiff/Claimant,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1]Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant..

          ORDER

          JAMES C.FOX Senior United States District Judge.

         Before the court are the following:

(1) the Memorandum and Recommendation ("M&R") [DE-22] of United States Magistrate Judge Robert B. Jones, Jr.; and
(2) the parties' cross Motions for Judgment on the Pleadings [DE-16, -18].

         The issues have been fully briefed, and the matter is now ripe for ruling. For the reasons addressed below, this court ADOPTS the findings and recommendations of the Magistrate Judge, Plaintiffs Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [DE-16] is DENIED, Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [DE-18] is ALLOWED, and the Commissioner's final decision is AFFIRMED.

         I. Discussion

         A. Magistrate Judge's M&R

         1. Legal Standard

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination remains with the court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). This court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the recommendation to which specific objections are made, and the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the Magistrate Judge's recommendation, or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In the absence of a timely-filed objection, a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must "only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation." Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005).

         On January 26, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued a M&R, in which he recommended that Plaintiffs Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [DE-16] be denied, Defendant's Motion for - Judgment on the Pleadings [DE-18] be allowed, and the Commissioner's final decision be affirmed. The Magistrate Judge advised the parties of the procedures and requirements for filing objections to the M&R and the consequences if they failed to do so. Plaintiff filed Objections [DE-23], to which Defendant filed a Response [DE-24].

         2. Plaintiffs Objections

         a. Plaintiff argues that the Magistrate Judge erred by finding that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") to afford the opinion of treating physician Dr. Rickabaugh only some weight was not error.

         In his first objection, Plaintiff argues that the Magistrate Judge erred by finding that the ALJ's decision to afford the opinion of Dr. Rickabaugh only some weight was not error. Objections [DE-23] at 1-3. In particular, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ's opinion and the Magistrate Judge's M&R reflect that they misunderstood Dr. Rickabaugh's usage of the term "activities of daily living." Id. at 1.

         Pursuant to the regulations, an ALJ is required to evaluate every medical opinion, regardless of its source. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c). When a treating physician's opinion on the nature and severity of a claimant's impairments is "well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent with the other substantial evidence, " it must be given "controlling weight." 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2); Mastro v. Apfel,270 F.3d 171, 178 (4th Cir. 2001). A treating physician's opinion should be given "significantly less weight" when it is not supported by clinical evidence or is inconsistent with other substantial evidence. Craig v. Chater, 16 F.3d 585, 590 (4th Cir. 1996). When an ALJ discounts the opinion of a treating ...


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