United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
ELIZABETH K. DILLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Timothy Paul McGuire brought this action for review of
defendant Nancy A. Berryhill's (the commissioner's)
final decision denying his claim for disability insurance
benefits (DIB) under the Social Security Act (the Act). 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. 16.) McGuire objected,
and the commissioner filed a response to the objections.
(Dkt. Nos. 17, 18.) 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 will
adopt 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 2-3, 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)).
two objections were both issues raised in his brief before
the magistrate judge, but he offers sufficiently specific
objections to the report itself to trigger the de novo
standard of review. Accordingly, the court reviews de novo
those portions of the report to which McGuire has objected.
had previously applied for social security benefits and was
awarded benefits for a closed period of disability, from
October 16, 2009, through December 31, 2010. The ALJ's
decision in the prior case was dated June 4, 2012, and
concluded that McGuire was disabled for the closed period
“due to degenerative disc disease and arthralgias
status-post October 2009 motor vehicle accident, residual
effects of shotgun injuries, and anxiety.” (ALJ
Decision, Administrative Record (R.) 56, Dkt. No. 8-1
(describing prior decision); see also R. 133-140
(prior ALJ decision).) Approximately three months before that
first decision, in March 2012, McGuire was injured in an
all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accident. Those injuries gave rise
to the disability claim at issue here.
5, 2015, the ALJ entered the decision that McGuire challenges
in this case, concluding that McGuire was ineligible for
benefits. In reaching his decision, the ALJ followed the
five-step process found in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 (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.
§ 404.1509; (3) whether he has a type of impairment
whose type, severity, and duration meets the requirements
listed in the statute; (4) whether he can perform his past
work, and if not, what his residual functional capacity (RFC)
is; and (5) whether work exists for the RFC assessed to the
claimant. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(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. § 423(d)(2)(A).
protectively filed for a period of disability and DIB on July
6, 2012, alleging disability beginning March 10, 2012. (R.
43.) At step one, the ALJ concluded that McGuire had not
worked since March 10, 2012, and met the insured status
requirements of the Act through March 31, 2016. At step two,
the ALJ found that McGuire suffered from the severe
impairments of “degenerative disc disease, status-post
scapula, and rib fractures, March 2012; history of shotgun
injury; hypertension; right hip arthralgia; depression;
anxiety. (Id. at 45.) At step three, the ALJ found
that McGuire's impairments, alone or in combination,
neither met nor medically equaled any listed impairments.