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Parker v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division

July 18, 2017

CHARLIE PARKER, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          HENRY COKE MORGAN. JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Charlie Parker, Jr.'s ("Plaintiffs") Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation. Doc. 19. For the reasons explained herein, the Court OVERRULES Plaintiffs objections and ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation ("R&R"), Doc. 18.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff does not object to the recitation of the procedural and factual background of this case contained in the R&R, which sets forth, inter alia, the following facts. Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB")[1] with the Social Security Administration ("SSA") on August 13, 2012, which was denied in May 2013. R&R at 1. Plaintiff filed a second application for DIB with the SSA on July 31, 2014, alleging a disability onset date of February 14, 2007. Id. at 1-2. Plaintiff subsequently amended his alleged disability onset date to June 1, 2012. Id. at 2. Plaintiff suffers from "various mental health issues, including bipolar disorder and PTSD." W. Plaintiff claims that these debilitating conditions prevent him from working. See Doc. 1. ("Compl."). Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. R&R at 2; R. 81, 96.[2] At Plaintiffs request, an administrative hearing was conducted on August 13, 2015. R&R at 2; R. 28-62. The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act and denied Plaintiffs claim for DIB. R. 13-23. Plaintiff sought to appeal the ALJ's decision, but the Appeals Council denied his request for review on January 19, 2016, making the ALJ's decision the Acting Commissioner of Social Security's ("Defendant's" or "the Commissioner's") final decision. R&R at 2; see also R. 16-19; 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.

         On March 17, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Complaint against the Commissioner, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision. See Compl. Defendant filed an Answer on August 1, 2016. Doc. 5. On August 9, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Remand. Doc. 7. After this Court referred the matter to the Magistrate Judge on August 12, 2016, Doc. 9, both Parties filed motions for summary judgment, Docs. 13, 15. On April 17, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued the R&R, which concludes that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision, that Plaintiff suffers "moderate" limitations, and that Plaintiff is capable of performing "light work." R&R at 9; R. 17-18. Accordingly, the Magistrate Judge RECOMMENDS that the Court DENY Plaintiffs Motion for Remand, Doc. 7, and Motion for Summary Judgment, Doc. 13, and GRANT Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, Doc. 15. R&R at 23.

         On May 1, 2017, Plaintiff filed his objections to the R&R. Doc. 19. Defendant did not file a response to Plaintiffs objections. This matter is now ripe for the Court's consideration.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court reviews de novo any part of a Magistrate Judge's recommendation to which a party has properly objected. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). The Court may then "accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions." Id. The Court reviews those parts of a Magistrate Judge's recommendation to which a party has not objected for clear error. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72; see also Diamond v. Colonial Life & Ace. Ins. Co.. 416 F.3d 310, 315-16 (4th Cir. 2005).

         In exercising de novo review of the parts of a Magistrate Judge's recommendation to which a party has properly objected, the Court analyzes the Commissioner's final decision using the same standard as that used by the Magistrate Judge. Specifically, the Court's review of the Commissioner's decision is limited to determining whether that decision was supported by substantial evidence on the record and whether the proper legal standard was applied in evaluating the evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Johnson v. Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650, 653 (4th Cir. 2005) (per curiam). Substantial evidence is defined as "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept to support a conclusion." Id. (quoting Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589 (4th Cir. 1996)) (internal quotation mark omitted). Courts have further explained that substantial evidence is less than a preponderance of evidence, but more than a mere scintilla of evidence. Laws v. Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640, 642 (4th Cir. 1966). Importantly, in reviewing the ALJ's decision the Court does not "reweigh conflicting evidence, make credibility determinations, or substitute [its] judgment for that of the [ALJ]." Id. (quoting Craig, 76 F.3d at 589) (internal quotation mark omitted) (final alteration in original). Thus, if the Court finds that there was substantial evidence to support the ALJ's factual findings, even if there was also evidence to support contrary findings, the ALJ's factual findings must be upheld.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff disagrees with the ALJ's conclusion that he is not eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits. See Doc. 19 at 2. In his motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff asserts that

Remand is warranted pursuant to the sixth sentence of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for proper consideration of new and material evidence and in accordance with Borders v. Heckler, 777 F.2d 954 (4th Cir. 1985). In the alternative, the ALJ's assessment of Plaintiffs residual functional capacity [("RFC")] is not supported by substantial evidence in the record because it is contrary to the Fourth Circuit's finding in Mascio v. Colvin, 780 F.3d 632 (4th Cir. 2015), because it is contrary to the Fourth Circuit's finding in Bird v. Commissioner of Social Security. 699 F.3d 337 (4th Cir. 2012), because the Appeals Council failed to consider evidence submitted to it when it denied review pursuant to Wilkins v. Secretary. Dept. of Health & Human Servs., 953 F.2d 93 (4th Cir. 1991) (en banc) and in accordance with Meyer v. Astrue, 662 F.3d 700 (4th Cir. 2011), because the ALJ failed to accord any evidentiary weight to the Compensation & Pension ("C&P") examination performed on July 18, 2012 in accordance with Gordon v. Schweiker, 725 F.2d 231 (4th Cir. 1984), and the ALJ improperly discredited the opinion of the treating physician and failed to comply with 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527 and in accordance with Johnson v. Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650, 654 (4th Cir. 2005).

Doc. 13 at 1-2.

         In the R&R, the Magistrate Judge rejects Plaintiffs arguments for remand and summary judgment. See R&R. Specifically, the R&R recommends the following: (1) remand is not warranted under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); (2) the ALJ's assessment of Plaintiffs residual functional capacity ("RFC") was supported by substantial evidence; and ...


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