United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
TERRENCE W. BOYLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the Memorandum and
Recommendation ("M&R") of United States
Magistrate Judge Robert T. Numbers, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(C) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). [DE 21]. For the
following reasons, the Court adopts the M&R.
December 7, 2009, plaintiff filed an application for
disability benefits from the Social Security Administration.
In a determination dated January 25, 2010, plaintiff was
found disabled as of November 1, 2008. His disability was
determined to have continued in a subsequent determination
dated August 26, 2011. On January 6, 2015, the Social
Security Administration found that plaintiff was no longer
disabled as of January 7, 2015. This determination was upheld
upon reconsideration. Plaintiff then appeared before
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Miller for a
hearing to determine whether he was entitled to benefits.
After the hearing, ALJ Miller determined that plaintiff was
not entitled to benefits because his previously-determined
disability ended on January 7, 2015. The decision of the ALJ
became the final decision of the Commissioner when the
Appeals Council denied plaintiffs request for review.
Plaintiff then sought timely review of the Commissioner's
decision in this Court, which referred the matter to
Magistrate Judge Numbers for entry of an M&R under 28
U.S.C. § 636(b). [DE 16].
18, 2017, Magistrate Judge Numbers entered an M&R
recommending that the court deny plaintiffs motion, grant the
Commissioner's motion, and affirm the ALJ's decision.
[DE 21]. Within the time allowed, plaintiff filed a written
objection to the M&R. [DE 23].
district court is required to review de novo those
portions of an M&R to which a party timely files specific
objections or where there is plain error. 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1); Thomas v. Am, 474 U.S. 140, 149-50
(1985). "[I]n the absence of a timely filed objection, a
district court need not conduct 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 & Ace.
Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (internal
quotation and citation omitted).
plaintiffs awareness of his obligation to file written
objections to the M&R, plaintiff did not do so with any
particularity and only made generalized objections that much
of the record evidence is unreliable and untrustworthy. The
court need not conduct a de novo review where a
party makes only "general and conclusory objections that
do not direct the court to a specific error in the
magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations."
Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982);
Wells v. Shriners Hosp., 109 F.3d 198, 200-01 (4th
Cir. 1997). "Section 636(b)(1) does not countenance a
form of generalized objection to cover all issues addressed
by the magistrate judge; it contemplates that a party's
objection to a magistrate judge's report be specific and
particularized, as the statute directs the district court to
review only those portions of the report or specified
proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is
made." United States v. Midgette, 478 F.3d 616,
621 (4th Cir. 2007).
objected first to the M&R by arguing generally that the
ALJ erred by failing to properly consider plaintiffs Veterans
Affairs ("VA") disability rating or records. As a
foundational matter, an ALJ is not bound by a disability
decision by another governmental agency, such as the VA. SSR
06-03p. However, the Fourth Circuit has noted that "both
the VA and Social Security programs serve the same
governmental purpose of providing benefits to persons unable
to work because of a serious disability" and, thus,
"in making a disability determination, the SSA must give
substantial weight to a VA disability rating." Bird
v. Comm 'r o/SSA, 699, F.3d 337, 343 (4th Cir.
2012). The ALJ is relieved from this only when "the
record before the ALJ clearly demonstrates that such a
deviation is appropriate." Id.
the ALJ gave the VA rating moderate weight and supported the
reasoning behind this deviation. As explained by Magistrate
Judge Numbers, the VA rating was based primarily on
plaintiffs PTSD, which the ALJ found not to be a significant
factor during the period in question. The ALJ also explained
that the VA rating did not determine plaintiffs overall
functional capacity, which the ALJ assessed independently
after reviewing the record evidence. It does not appear that
plaintiff has any objection to these specific findings by the
ALJ, see [DE 23], but rather argues that no other
evidence in the record has the same depth of information as
the records and ratings from the VA. Plaintiff also objected
to the ALJ's use of consultative examination evidence,
and alleged that such examinations utilized "substandard
facilities and [a] lack of professional standards." [DE
23]. The ALJ is not bound to any particular source of
evidence or credibility finding to the exclusion of others.
Instead, an ALJ makes an RFC assessment based on all of the
relevant medical and other evidence. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1545(a). Additionally, the ALJ's opinion must
"include a discussion of which evidence the ALJ found
credible and why, and specific application of the pertinent
legal requirements to the record evidence." Radford
v. Colvin, 734 F.3d 288, 295 (4th Cir. 2013) (citing
Hines v. Bowen, 872 F.2d 56, 59 (4th Cir. 1989)).
For the reasons given in the M&R, the ALJ satisfied these
requirements and sufficiently considered the record evidence
and supported his findings as to the proper weight to give
each piece of evidence.
also argued in his written objections that the ALJ and the
physicians cited in the record engaged in a "blatant
effort to misguide any appeal or judges [sic] decision,
" [DE 23], but did not offer any credible support for
this serious allegation. For example, the ALJ noted that
February, 2015 imaging tests of plaintiff s spine showed
minimal degenerative changes with no evidence of spinal canal
stenosis. Tr. at 18. Plaintiff argues in his written
objections that this test was actually a basic plate X-Ray
which cannot show spinal canal stenosis. [DE 23]. Plaintiff
alleges that this is proof of an intentional effort by either
the ALJ or physician to misguide his appeal. Id.
However, the record shows that this test, performed at the
VA, was in fact an "MRI C SPINE WITHOUT CONTRAST"
test and did in fact show the results cited by the ALJ in
support of his decision. Tr. at 607. Plaintiffs allegations
of impropriety on the part of the ALJ or consultative
physicians are not credible and do not give this Court reason
to overturn the M&R.
considered the M&R and record alongside plaintiffs
objections, the Court is satisfied that there is no error and
accepts the Magistrate Judge's recommendation.
foregoing reasons, the Court ADOPTS the Magistrate
Judge's M&R in its entirety. [DE 21]. Accordingly,
plaintiffs motion [DE 15] is DENIED and defendant's
motion for judgment on the pleadings [DE ...