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Hartfield v. Colvin

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

September 26, 2017

VERNA BEATRICE HARTFIELD, Plaintiff
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          ORDER

          ROBERT G. DHUMAR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Verna Beatrice Hartfield's ("Plaintiff) Objections to Magistrate Judge Lawrence R. Leonard's Report and Recommendation ("R&R"). For the reasons herein, the Court: (1) ACCEPTS the R&R, ECF No. 12; (2) AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Defendant"); (3) DENIES Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF Nos. 7, 8; and (4) GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 10.

         Contents

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND.............................................................................2

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND......................................................................................3

         A. Plaintiff's Background....................................................................................3

         B. Medical History.................................................................................................3

         C. ALJ Hearing - August 13, 2014..........................................................................8

         D. ALJ's Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law.......................................9

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW.......................................................................................10

         IV. ANALYSIS.................................................................................................................12

         A. Objection One: The ALJ Failed to Properly Weigh the Medical Opinion Evidence and Failed to Properly Determine Ms. Hartfield's Residual Functional Capacity.......................................12

         B. Objection Two: The ALJ Failed to Properly Evaluate Plaintiff's Credibility....................................................................................13

         V. CONCLUSION..........................................................................................................14

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff applied for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") on August 2, 2012, alleging disability as of December 1, 2011, caused by degenerative disk disease. R. 36, 53.[1]The Commissioner denied Plaintiffs application at the initial level and the reconsideration level of administrative review. R. 96, 108. The Plaintiff then requested a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which occurred on August 13, 2014. R. 50. That day, Plaintiff, who appeared with counsel, and an impartial vocational expert testified before the ALJ. R. 50-76.

         On November 18, 2014, the ALJ denied Plaintiffs application. R. 33. Plaintiff timely requested reconsideration, but the Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request because, it "found no reason under [their] rules to review the Administrative Law Judge's decision." R. 1-6. Therefore, the ALJ's decision stands as the final decision of the Commissioner for purposes of judicial review. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481 (2016).

         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Plaintiff timely filed the instant action for judicial review of Defendant's final decision. ECF No. 1. Plaintiff filed her Motion for Summary Judgment and Motion for Remand on October 19, 2016. ECF Nos. 7, 8. Defendant filed her Motion for Summary Judgment November 18, 2016. ECF No. 10. The matter was then referred to United States Magistrate Judge Lawrence R. Leonard pursuant to: (1) 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and (C); (2) Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; (3) Rule 72 of the Rules of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, and (4) the April 2, 2002, Standing Order on Assignment of Certain Matters to United States Magistrate Judges. Judge Leonard issued his R&R with respect to the parties' opposing motions on May 16, 2017. ECF No. 12. The R&R recommends that this Court DENY Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment, AFFIRM the final decision of Carolyn Colvin, the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, and GRANT Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff filed her objections to the R&R May 26, 2017. ECF No. 13. Defendant responded June 8, 2017. ECF No. 14.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         A. Plaintiffs Background

         Plaintiff was born in 1958 and was 52 years old on her alleged disability onset date. R. 53. She has a high school education and past relevant work experience as a fast food crew person, a thrift store cashier, a fast food assistant manager, and a department store assistant manager. R. 53, 69-71. Plaintiffs most recent occupation was at the thrift store, where she worked from approximately January 2009 to April 2011. R. 182-86.

         B. ...


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