United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
KIMBERLY G. STACK, 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 issued in this matter. In the Memorandum
and Recommendation, Magistrate Judge Dennis Howell advised
the parties of the right to file objections within 14 days,
all in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c).
Objections have been filed 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
plaintiff makes two objections to the magistrate judge's
memorandum and recommendation (#15). First, plaintiff argues
that Administrative Law Judge David S. Pang (“the
ALJ”) failed to properly assess plaintiff's mental
residual functional capacity (“RFC”). Second,
plaintiff contends that the ALJ failed to properly explain
his credibility findings and used only boilerplate language
to do so. The court will consider each objection in turn.
the court considers plaintiff's allegation that the ALJ
improperly assessed plaintiff's mental RFC. Plaintiff
argues that the ALJ neglected to properly analyze
plaintiff's ability to stay on task and failed to explain
the reasoning behind his findings on plaintiff's mental
RFC. The court cannot agree. The ALJ provided substantial
evidence in support of his findings on plaintiff's mental
RFC. First, the ALJ gave great weight to the opinion of Dr.
Mark Coe, who specifically found that plaintiff's mental
health symptoms should not have a significant impact on her
ability to engage in work-related tasks or socializing with
others. (Tr. 56). Second, the ALJ also gave great weight to
the opinion of Karen Canipe, who likewise found that
plaintiff did not exhibit any work-related limitation in
function due to her mental health condition. Id. The
ALJ also sufficiently explained why he gave these opinions
great weight, in that he found them to be consistent with
plaintiff's level of treatment, testimony, and other
factors. Id. While the ALJ did find mild limitation
in concentration, persistence, or pace, the ALJ also
explained away the need for such a limitation in his RFC
finding by noting that plaintiff herself testifies that this
is largely due to medication and she is still able to finish
what she starts. (Tr. 57). Finally, plaintiff herself offered
testimony that she did not believe her issues with anxiety
and depression genuinely impaired her adaptive functioning.
(Tr. 392, 394). As plaintiff herself ultimately bears the
burden of persuasion in establishing the degree to which her
impairments limit her RFC, such admissions strongly undermine
any allegations of error on the part of the ALJ. See
Plummer v. Astrue, 2011 WL 7938431, at *5 (W.D. N.C.
Sept. 26, 2011) (citing Stormo v. Barnhart, 377 F.3d
801, 806 (8th Cir. 2004)). Thus, the court finds
no basis for remand on this issue.
the court considers plaintiff's other objection, that the
ALJ failed to properly and fully explain his credibility
findings and instead used insufficient boilerplate language.
Pursuant to SSR 96-7p, 1996 WL 374186, at *2 (July 2, 1996)
(“SSR 96-7p”), if an ALJ finds a claimant to be
less than fully credible, the ALJ must provide specific
reasons that are based on the evidence; conclusory statements
or a simple recitation of factors described in the
regulations are insufficient. Here, the court agrees with the
magistrate judge's recommendation and finds that the ALJ
has done so. The ALJ noted specific contradictions in
statements plaintiff made that undermined her credibility.
For example, the ALJ stated that, while plaintiff did have
some findings of tenderness and somewhat limited range of
motion, she also possesses full motor strength and sensation,
a normal gait, and an almost full squat. (Tr. 66). Further,
the ALJ noted that while plaintiff claims she is in constant
pain that limits her activity and that she is incapable of
working full time, she has continued to work (albeit
part-time) and is able to drive, go shopping, cook for her
family, and otherwise take care of herself and her home with
little difficulty. Id. As such, the court finds that
the ALJ did sufficiently explain his credibility finding and
support it with substantial evidence; as such, the court
finds no basis for remand on this issue.
such careful review, the Court determines that the
recommendation of the magistrate judge is fully consistent
with and supported by current law. Further, the factual
background and recitation of issues is supported by the
applicable pleadings. Based on such determinations, the Court
will fully affirm the Memorandum and Recommendation and grant
relief in accordance therewith.
THEREFORE, ORDERED that the Memorandum and Recommendation
(#15) is AFFIRMED, plaintiff's Motion for Summary
Judgment (#9) is DENIED, defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment (#13) ...