United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
ELIZABETH K. DILLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Whitney Renee Isner brought this action for review of
defendant Nancy A. Berryhill's (the commissioner's)
final decision denying her claim for supplemental security
income (SSI) under the Social Security Act (the Act).
See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2012) (authorizing a
district court to enter judgment “affirming, modifying,
or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security”). The parties filed cross-motions for summary
judgment, which the court referred to United States
Magistrate Judge Robert S. Ballou for a report and
recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). In
his report, the magistrate judge concluded that substantial
evidence supported the commissioner's decision. (Dkt. No.
28.) Isner timely objected. (Dkt. No. 29.) After de novo
review of the pertinent portions of the record, the report,
and the filings by the parties, in conjunction with
applicable law, the court agrees with, and will adopt in
full, the magistrate judge's recommendation. Accordingly,
defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted,
and plaintiff's motion for summary judgment will be
court adopts the recitation of facts and procedural
background as set forth in the report. (Report 2-4, Dkt. No.
Standard of Review
court's review of the administrative law judge's
(ALJ) underlying decision is limited. Specifically,
“[a] district court's primary function in reviewing
an administrative finding of no disability is to determine
whether the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial
evidence.” Coffman v. Bowen, 829 F.2d 514, 517
(4th Cir. 1987). Substantial evidence does not require a
“large or considerable amount of evidence, ”
Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 564- 65 (1988);
rather, it requires “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 401 (1971). This is “more than a mere scintilla of
evidence [and] somewhat less than a preponderance.”
Laws v. Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640, 642 (4th Cir.
as here, a matter has been referred to a magistrate judge
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), this court reviews de
novo the portions of the report to which a timely objection
has been made. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3) (“The district
judge must determine de novo any part of the magistrate
judge's disposition that has been properly objected
to.”); United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667,
673-74 (1980) (finding that de novo review of the
magistrate's report and recommendation comports with due
order for an objection to trigger de novo review, it must be
made “with sufficient specificity so as reasonably to
alert the district court of the true ground for the
objection.” United States v. Midgette, 478
F.3d 616, 622 (4th Cir. 2007). See also Page v. Lee,
337 F.3d 411, 416 n.3 (4th Cir. 2003)
(“[P]etitioner's failure to object to the
magistrate judge's recommendation with the specificity
required by the Rule is, standing alone, a sufficient basis
upon which to affirm the judgment of the district court as to
this claim.”). Further, objections must respond to a
specific error in the report and recommendation. See
Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982).
General or conclusory objections, therefore, are not proper;
they are in fact considered the equivalent of a waiver.
Id. Likewise, an objection that merely repeats the
arguments made in the briefs before the magistrate judge is a
general objection and is treated as a failure to object.
Moon v. BWX Techs, 742 F.Supp.2d 827, 829 (W.D. Va.
2010), aff'd, 498 F. App'x 268 (4th Cir.
2012) (citing Veney v. Astrue, 539 F.Supp.2d 841,
844-46 (W.D. Va. 2008)).
raises three objections to the report, and they all concern
issues raised in her brief before the magistrate judge. But
Isner also cites to specific portions of the record that she
believes refute the report's conclusions, and she
specifically addresses statements in the report that she
believes were erroneous. Thus, the court will address her
objections and apply a de novo standard of review.
August 8, 2014, the ALJ entered his decision analyzing
Isner's claim, ultimately concluding that Isner was
ineligible for benefits. In reaching his decision, the ALJ
followed the five-step process found in 20 C.F.R. §
416.920 (2016). The five-step evaluation asks the following
questions, in order: (1) whether the claimant is working or
participating in substantial gainful activity; (2) whether
the claimant has a severe impairment of the duration required
by 20 C.F.R. § 416.909; (3) whether she has a type of
impairment whose type, severity, and duration meets the
requirements listed in the statute; (4) whether she can
perform her past work, and if not, what her residual
functional capacity (RFC) is; and (5) whether work exists for
the RFC assessed to the claimant. 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4). The claimant bears the burden of proof at
steps one through four to establish a prima facie case for
disability. At the fifth step, the burden shifts to the
commissioner to establish that the claimant maintains the
RFC, considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and impairments, to perform available alternative
work in the local and national economies. 42 U.S.C. §
case, the ALJ determined that Isner had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since July 7, 2010, the
application date. (ALJ Decision, Administrative Record (R.)
23, Dkt. No. 12-1.) At step two, the ALJ found that Isner
suffered from the severe impairments of major depressive
disorder, polysubstance dependence, obsessive-compulsive
disorder (OCD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
(ADHD), bipolar disorder, asthma, lumbago, and cervicalgia.
(Id.) The ALJ further found that certain of
Isner's impairments, including her substance abuse
disorders, met listings 12.04 (affective disorders) and 12.09
(substance abuse disorders). (Id. at 24.)
Nevertheless, the ALJ found that if Isner stopped abusing
substances, her impairments would no longer meet or medically
equal a listed impairment. (Id. at 26.)
then evaluated Isner's RFC, determining that if Isner
stopped abusing substances, she would retain the RFC to
perform light work and simple, routine, repetitive tasks in a
low-stress job with only occasional decision-making, changes
in work setting, judgment, and interaction with the public or
co-workers. (Id. at 27-28.) The ALJ therefore
concluded that Isner was not eligible for benefits.
(Id. at 140.) ...