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Hickman v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division

August 2, 2018

CLARA N. HICKMAN Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Frank D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 6) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 10). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), these motions were referred to the magistrate judge for issuance of a Memorandum and Recommendation (“M&R”) for disposition. (Doc. No. 12). The M&R recommends Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment be granted, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment be denied, and the Commissioner's decision be affirmed. Plaintiff filed objections to the M&R (Doc. No. 13), and Defendant filed a response brief (Doc. No. 14). This matter is now ripe for review.

         For the reasons set forth, the Court OVERRULES Plaintiff's objections, ACCEPTS and ADOPTS the M&R, DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, and AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff does not lodge any specific objections to the procedural history section contained in the M&R. Therefore, the portion of the M&R entitled “Procedural History” is hereby adopted and incorporated by reference as if fully set forth herein. (Doc. No. 12 at 1-2).

         In Plaintiff's Memorandum in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff asserted the ALJ erred by: (1) failing to identify an apparent conflict between the VE's testimony and the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT”) (Doc. No. 7 at 5-10) and (2) discounting Plaintiff's subjective statements of pain without specifying which of Plaintiff's statements were inconsistent (Doc. No. 7 at 10-17).

         After reviewing the motion, the M&R concluded the ALJ's RFC determination at step four was proper because: (1) the VE's testimony was consistent with the DOT (Doc. No. 12 at 3-6), and (2) the ALJ engaged in a thorough, well-reasoned credibility analysis (Doc. No. 12 at 6-9).

         II. Standard of Review

         A. Review of a Memorandum and Recommendation

         A district court may assign dispositive pretrial matters, including motions for summary judgment, to a magistrate judge for “proposed findings of fact and recommendations.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) & (B). The Federal Magistrate Act provides that a district 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)(C); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). 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). De novo review is also not required “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. Similarly, when no objection is filed, “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) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72, advisory committee note).

         B. Review of a Social Security Appeal

         Plaintiff does not lodge any specific objections to the standard of review of a social security section contained in the M&R. Therefore, the portion of the M&R entitled “Standard of Review” is hereby adopted and incorporated by reference as if fully set forth herein. (Doc. No. 12 at 2-3).

         III. Analysis

         Plaintiff raises two objections to the to the M&R's findings and conclusions, arguing the M&R erred in upholding the ALJ's RFC determination by: (1) failing to find the VE's testimony created an apparent conflict (Doc. No. 13 at 1-4) and (2) upholding the ALJ's credibility determination regarding Plaintiff's testimony (Doc. No. 13 at 4-5). In response to Plaintiff's objections, Defendant “relies on the points and authorities previously stated in [Defendant's] memorandum in support of [Defendant's] motion for summary judgment[.]” (Doc. No. 14 at 1). Following d ...


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