United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
KENNETH M. SYNDER, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
Cogburn Jr. United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the court on review of a Memorandum
and Recommendation (#12) issued in this matter. In the
Memorandum and Recommendation, the magistrate judge advised
the parties of the right to file objections within 14 days,
all in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c). The
defendant has filed objections within the time allowed.
Federal Magistrates Act of 1979, as amended,
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.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1);
Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 200 (4th Cir. 1983).
However, “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 or conclusory
objections that do not direct the court to a specific error
in the magistrate judge's proposed findings and
recommendations.” Id. Moreover, the statute
does not on its face require any review at all of issues that
are not the subject of an objection. Thomas v. Arn,
474 U.S. 140, 149 (1985); Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d
at 200. Nonetheless, a district judge is responsible for the
final determination and outcome of the case, and accordingly
the court has conducted a careful review of the magistrate
to Magistrate Judge Howell's Memorandum and
Recommendation, the defendant timely filed her objections
(#13). Specifically, the defendant raises two objections
under the same argument, to wit, that even if the ALJ did err
those errors were harmless. Defendant objects to two findings
of the Magistrate Judge related to the treatment of opinions
by Dr. Mukesh Kamdar and the absence of a discussion of
Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) scores.
the court's task is not to re-weigh the evidence
presented to the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) or to
ascertain whether the petitioner is indeed disabled, but
instead the court is asked whether the ALJ's findings are
supported by substantial evidence. See Craig v.
Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589 (4th Cir. 1996). Generally,
failure by the Commissioner to consider an entire line of
evidence falls well below the minimal level of articulation
required by the Social Security Act. Diaz v. Chater,
55 F.3d 300, 307 (7th Cir. 1995). However, an ALJ is not
tasked with the “impossible burden of mentioning every
piece of evidence” that may be placed into the
Administrative Record. Phipps v. Colvin, No.
3:13-CV-00315-MOC, 2014 WL 31798, at *2 (W.D. N.C. Jan. 6,
2014); Parks v. Sullivan, 766 F.Supp. 627, 635
treating physician is a physician who has observed the
plaintiff's condition over a prolonged period of time.
Mitchell v. Schweiker, 699 F.2d 185, 187
(4th Cir. 1983). The opinion of a treating
physician is only entitled to controlling weight if it is
supported by “clinical and laboratory diagnostic
techniques, ” and is not inconsistent with other
substantial evidence. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(d)(2).
If a physician's opinion is not given controlling weight,
then the “factors listed below” and in paragraphs
(d)(3) through (5) used to determine the amount of weight to
be given it are (1) the length of the treatment relationship
and the frequency of examination (“the longer a
treating source has treated you and the more times you have
been seen by a treating source, the more weight we will give
to the source's medical opinion”); (2) the nature
and extent of the treatment relationship; (3) supportability
(“the more a medical source presents relevant evidence
to support an opinion, particularly medical signs and
laboratory findings, the more weight we will give that
opinion”); (4) consistency (“the more consistent
an opinion is with the record as a whole, the more weight we
will give to that opinion”); and (5) specialization
(“[w]e generally give more weight to the opinion of a
specialist about medical issues related to his or her area of
specialty than to the opinion of a source who is not a
specialist”). Id. The regulation also makes
clear, however, that the ultimate determination of disability
is reserved for the Commissioner, and “[a] statement by
a medical source that you are ‘disabled' or
‘unable to work' does not mean that we will
determine that you are disabled.” 20 C.F.R. §
Pittman v. Massanari 141 F.Supp.2d 601, *608 (W.D.
N.C. 2001). Here, the court finds that the ALJ properly gave
little weight to the treatment source, Dr. Kamdar and
adequately explained that Dr. Kamdar's findings were not
consistent with the record and, consequently, not to be
afforded controlling weight. As the Court of Appeals for the
Fourth Circuit held:
Thus, “[b]y negative implication, if a physician's
opinion is not supported by clinical evidence or if it is
inconsistent with other substantial evidence, it should be
accorded significantly less weight.” Craig, 76 F.3d at
590. Under such circumstances, the ALJ holds the discretion
to give less weight to the testimony of a treating physician
in the face of persuasive contrary evidence.
Mastro v. Apfel, 270 F.3d 171, 178 (4th Cir. 2001)
(citation omitted). The court finds that the ALJ properly
fulfilled his obligation of explaining why he gave the
opinion of Dr. Hume little weight. Defendant's ...