United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Harrisonburg Division
Elizabeth K. Dillon, United States District Judge.
Jennifer Lynn Biller brought this action for review of
defendant Nancy A. Berryhill's (the commissioner's)
final decision denying her claim for disability insurance
benefits (DIB) 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 Joel C. Hoppe 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.
timely filed written objections, and the commissioner filed a
response. (Dkt. Nos. 20, 21.) 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 denied.
court adopts the recitation of facts and procedural
background as set forth in the report. (Report 3-4, 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 two objections to the report, and, although they are
the same basic arguments that she made in her brief before
the magistrate judge, she points to specific parts of the
report and its reasoning that she believes are incorrect.
Thus, the court will apply a de novo standard of review to
the issues raised in her objections.
November 23, 2015, ALJ Mary Peltzer entered her decision
analyzing Biller's claim, ultimately concluding that
Biller was ineligible for benefits. In reaching her 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 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. §
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. §
case, Biller met the insured status requirements of the Act
and had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the
alleged onset date of February 15, 2011. (ALJ Decision,
Administrative Record (R.) 83, Dkt. No. 9-1.) At step two,
the ALJ found that Biller has the following severe
impairments: diabetes mellitus; spasmodic dysphonia;
idiopathic ulnar neuropathy and peripheral neuropathy;
adjustment disorder with depressive mood/major depressive
disorder, and personality disorder. (R. 84.) At step three,
the ALJ found that Biller's impairments did not meet or
medically equal any listed impairments. (Id.) The
ALJ specifically considered ...