United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Elizabeth K. Dillon United States District Judge
social security disability appeal was referred to the
Honorable Robert S. Ballou, United States Magistrate Judge,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), for proposed
findings of fact and a recommended disposition of
cross-motions for summary judgment filed by plaintiff Robert
David Brown and defendant Carolyn W. Colvin (the
commissioner). (Dkt. Nos. 16, 20.) After briefing and oral
argument, the magistrate judge filed a report and
recommendation on August 2, 2016, recommending that the court
deny Brown's motion, grant the commissioner's motion,
and affirm the Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ) final
decision denying Brown disability insurance benefits (DIB)
and supplemental security income (SSI). (R. & R., Dkt.
filed objections to the report, and the commissioner filed a
response. (Dkt. Nos. 27, 28). The court has reviewed the
report, Brown's objections, and the commissioner's
response. For the reasons set forth herein, the court will
adopt the report in full, grant the Commissioner's motion
for summary judgment, and deny Brown's motion for summary
protectively filed for DIB and SSI on March 20, 2013,
claiming he had been disabled since July 31, 2012, due to
radiating back pain, leg pain, migraines, allergies, and
numbness in his left leg and right foot. (R. 170-75, 176-84,
Dkt. No. 8-1). Brown's initial claims were denied on
September 19, 2013, and upon reconsideration on December 18,
2013. (R. 70-71, 101-102.) On January 2, 2014, Brown
requested a hearing before an ALJ. (R. 124- 25.) That hearing
was held September 23, 2014. (R. 26-50.) Brown was
represented by counsel and testified at the hearing, as did
vocational expert Barry S. Hensley, Ed. D. (Id.)
entered a decision on January 9, 2015, analyzing Brown's
claims under the familiar five-step process of 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a) and 416.920(a). (R. 12-20.) Although
the ALJ found that Brown's chronic headaches and lumbar
spine degenerative disc disease with sciatica were severe
impairments, he determined that Brown had the residual
functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work with
additional restrictions,  and was therefore not disabled. (R.
17.) In so finding, the ALJ determined that some of
Brown's statements about the limiting effects of his
migraines and back pain were not substantiated by objective
medical evidence and were not entirely credible. The ALJ gave
great weight the state agency medical consultants'
opinions that Brown could perform a reduced range of light
exertional activity,  which were consistent with objective
evidence in the record. (R. 17-18.)
the Appeals Council denied Brown's request for review of
the ALJ's decision, (R. 1-3), Brown filed this action and
moved for summary judgment. Brown challenged the ALJ's
conclusion on several grounds. First, Brown argued that the
ALJ failed to consider all evidence in the record,
specifically evidence that Brown had complained of his
migraines to providers at the Bradley Free Clinic and
evidence that his back pain was aggravated by walking.
Second, Brown argued that the ALJ failed to consider
Brown's impairments in combination. Finally, Brown
claimed that the ALJ's credibility findings were not
supported by substantial evidence. (Pl.'s Summ. J. Br.
17-22, Dkt. No. 17.) The commissioner filed a cross-motion
for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 20), and the motions were
referred to the magistrate judge.
magistrate judge recommended that this court grant the
commissioner's motion for summary judgment, deny
Brown's, and affirm the ALJ's decision. (R. & R.
1.) The magistrate judge disagreed with Brown's argument
that the ALJ failed to consider all evidence related to
Brown's migraines and back impairments. The report
determined that the fact that the ALJ did not specifically
address Brown's complaints of migraines to providers at
the Bradley Free Clinic was not reversible error because the
ALJ was not required to recite every piece of evidence in the
record and none of those providers-or any of Brown's
other doctors-testified that Brown's migraines limited
his ability to work. The magistrate judge rejected
Brown's arguments regarding his back pain as well, noting
that there were inconsistencies in the record as to its
limiting effects, which justified the ALJ's conclusion.
report also rejected Brown's argument that the ALJ failed
to consider the cumulative effects of his impairments.
Finally, the magistrate judge determined that the ALJ's
credibility findings were supported by substantial evidence.
Recognizing inconsistencies between Brown's subjective
complaints and other evidence in the record, as well as
evidence that Brown may have been overstating his symptoms,
the magistrate judge deferred to the ALJ's credibility
findings. Brown objected to the each of these conclusions.
Standard of Review
court reviews the ALJ's final decision to determine
whether it was supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g); Ridings v. Apfel, 76 F.Supp.2d 707,
708 (W.D. Va. 1999). “Substantial evidence” is
evidence which a reasonable mind would accept as sufficient
to support a particular conclusion. It consists of more than
a mere scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less than a
preponderance. If there is evidence to justify a refusal to
direct a verdict were the case before a jury, then there is
Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir.
1990) (quoting Laws v. Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640, 642
(4th Cir. 1966)). In reviewing an ALJ's decision, the
court may not re-weigh the evidence or substitute its
judgment for that of the ALJ, Hays, 907 F.2d at
1456; it must uphold the ALJ's determination if it was
supported by substantial evidence and applied the correct
law. See id.; King v. Califano, 599 F.2d
597, 599 (4th Cir. 1979) (“This ...