United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division
W. FLANAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the court on the parties'
cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings. (DE 17, 21).
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 72(b), United States Robert T. Numbers, II,
issued a memorandum and recommendation
(“M&R”) (DE 23), wherein it is recommended
that the court deny plaintiff's motion, grant
defendant's motion, and affirm the final decision by
defendant. Plaintiff timely filed an objection to the M&R
and defendant filed a response. In this posture, the issues
raised are ripe for ruling. For the reasons that follow, the
court overrules plaintiff's objection and adopts the
recommendation of the magistrate judge.
September 12, 2014, plaintiff filed an application for
supplemental social security income, alleging disability
beginning January 2, 2005. The application was denied
initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff requested
hearing before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”), who after hearing held January 28, 2016,
denied plaintiff's claims by decision dated March 8,
2016. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for
review on August 2, 2016, leaving the ALJ's decision as
defendant's final decision. On September 7, 2016,
plaintiff initiated the instant action, seeking review of
court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to
review defendant's final decision denying benefits. The
court must uphold the factual findings of the ALJ “if
they are supported by substantial evidence and were reached
through application of the correct legal standard.”
Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589 (4th Cir. 1996).
“Substantial evidence [is] . . . such relevant evidence
as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 401 (1971) (quotations omitted). The standard is met by
“more than a mere scintilla of evidence but . . . less
than a preponderance.” Laws v. Celebrezze, 368
F.2d 640, 642 (4th Cir. 1966). In reviewing for substantial
evidence, the court is not to “re-weigh conflicting
evidence, make credibility determinations, or substitute
[its] judgment” for defendant's. Craig, 76
F.3d at 589.
necessary predicate to engaging in substantial evidence
review is a record of the basis for the ALJ's ruling,
” including “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). An ALJ's decision must “include a narrative
discussion describing how the evidence supports each
conclusion, ” Monroe v. Colvin, 826 F.3d 176,
189 (4th Cir. 2016) (quoting Mascio v. Colvin, 780
F.3d 632, 636 (4th Cir. 2015)), and an ALJ “must build
an accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to his
conclusion.” Id. (quoting Clifford v.
Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 872 (7th Cir. 2000)).
“[R]emand is appropriate where an ALJ fails to discuss
relevant evidence that weighs against his decision.”
Ivey v. Barnhart, 393 F.Supp.2d 387, 390 (E.D. N.C.
2005) (citing Murphy v. Bowen, 810 F.2d 433, 438
(4th Cir. 1987)).
assist in its review of defendant's denial of benefits,
the court may “designate a magistrate judge to conduct
hearings . . . and to submit . . . proposed findings of fact
and recommendations for the disposition [of the motions for
judgment on the pleadings].” See 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(B). The parties may object to the magistrate
judge's findings and recommendations, and the court
“shall make a de novo determination of those portions
of the report or specified proposed findings or
recommendations to which objection is made.”
Id. § 636(b)(1). The court does not perform 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). Absent a specific and timely filed
objection, the court reviews only for “clear error,
” and need not give any explanation for adopting the
M&R. Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins.
Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005); Camby v.
Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 200 (4th Cir. 1983). Upon careful
review of the record, “the court may accept, reject, or
modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations
made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. §
case, plaintiff objects to the magistrate judge's
determination that the ALJ was not required to evaluate
plaintiff's prior disability finding. Plaintiff contends
that the ALJ's decision to discount the wight of the
prior favorable decision is not based on substantial
evidence, and therefore cannot be upheld. In lodging his
objection, plaintiff restates, without substantive
elaboration, and in some respects verbatim, arguments
advanced in his motion for judgment on the pleadings.
(See DE 18, p. 7-8). Upon careful review of the
record, the court finds that the magistrate judge already has
addressed the arguments raised by plaintiff in his
objections, and plaintiff raises no new issues for the
court's discussion. The magistrate judge thoroughly
addressed plaintiff s arguments in the M&R, wherein he
analyzes the ALJ's decision to afford little weight to
the prior disability finding. (See DE 23, p. 6-7).
Accordingly, the court adopts as its own the magistrate
judge's discussion concerning the ALJ's treatment of
plaintiff s prior disability finding.
novo review of those portions of the M&R to which
specific objections have been made, and upon considered
review of those portions of the M&R to which no such
objection has been made, the court ADOPTS the recommendation
of the magistrate judge. The court DENIES plaintiffs motion
for judgment on the pleadings (DE 17), GRANTS defendant's
motion for judgment on the ...