United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
RODNEY L. STAMBACK, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
Michael F. Urbanski Chief United States District Judge
social security disability appeal was referred to the
Honorable Robert S. Ballou, United States Magistrate Judge,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), for proposed
findings of fact and a recommended disposition. The
magistrate judge filed a report and recommendation on June
15, 2017, recommending that plaintiffs motion for summary
judgment be denied, the Commissioner's motion for summary
judgment be granted and the Commissioner's final decision
be affirmed. Plaintiff Rodney L. Stamback has filed
objections to the report, the Commissioner has responded, and
this matter is now ripe for the court's consideration.
72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a party
to "serve and file specific, written objections" to
a magistrate judge's proposed findings and
recommendations within fourteen days of being served with a
copy of the report. See also 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1). The Fourth Circuit has held that an objecting
party must do so "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 Or.), cert denied, 127 S.Ct. 3032
To conclude otherwise would defeat the purpose of requiring
objections. We would be permitting a party to appeal any
issue that was before the magistrate judge, regardless of the
nature and scope of objections made to the magistrate
judge's report. Either the district court would then have
to review every issue in the magistrate judge's proposed
findings and recommendations or courts of appeals would be
required to review issues that the district court never
considered. In either case, judicial resources would be
wasted and the district court's effectiveness based on
help from magistrate judges would be undermined.
The district court must determine de novo any
portion of the magistrate judge's report and
recommendation to which a proper objection has been made.
"The district court may accept, reject, or modify the
recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return
the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); accord 28 U.S.C. §
however, a party '"makes general or conclusory
objections that do not direct the court to a specific error
in the magistrate judge's proposed findings and
recommendations, '" de novo review is not
required. Diprospero v. Colvin, No.
5:13-cv-00088-FDW-DSC, 2014 WL 1669806, at *1 (W.D. N.C. Apr.
28, 2014) (quoting Howard Yellow Cabs. Inc. v.
United States. 987 F.Supp. 469, 474 (W.D. N.C.
1997) (quoting Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47
(4th Cir. 1982))). "The court will not consider those
objections by the plaintiff that are merely conclusory or
attempt to object to the entirety of the Report, without
focusing the court's attention on specific errors
therein." Camper v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, No.
4:08cv69, 2009 WL 9044111, at *2 (E.D. Va. May 6, 2009),
affd. 373 F.App'x 346 (4th Cir.), cert
denied. 131 S.Ct. 610 (2010); see.
Midgette. 478 F.3d at 621 ("Section 636(b)(1)
does not countenance a form of generalized objection to cover
all issues addressed by the magistrate judge; it contemplates
that a party's objection to a magistrate judge's
report be specific and particularized, as the statute directs
the district court to review only 'those
portions of the report or specified proposed
findings or recommendations to which objection is
made.'"). Such general objections "have
the same effect as a failure to object, or as a waiver of
such objection." Moon v. BWX Technologies, 742
F.Supp.2d 827, 829 (W.D. Va. 2010), affd. 498
F.App'x 268 (4th Cir. 2012); see also Thomas v.
Am. 474 U.S. 140, 154 (1985) ("[T]he statute does
not require the judge to review an issue de novo if no
objections are filed").
objections that simply reiterate arguments raised before the
magistrate judge are considered to be general objections to
the entirety of the report and recommendation. See Veney
v. As true. 539 F.Supp.2d 841, 844-45 (W.D. Va. 2008).
As the court noted in Veney:
Allowing a litigant to. obtain de novo review of [his] entire
case by merely reformatting an earlier brief as an objection
"mak[es] the initial reference to the magistrate
useless. The functions of the district court are effectively
duplicated as both the magistrate and the district court
perform identical tasks. This duplication of time and effort
wastes judicial resources rather than saving them, and runs,
contrary to the purposes of the Magistrates Act."
Howard [v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.].
932 F.2d [505, ]  509 [(6th Cir. 1991)].
539 F.Supp.2d at 846. A plaintiff who reiterates his
previously-raised arguments will not be given "the
second bite at the apple he seeks;" instead, his
re-filed brief will be treated as a general objection, which
has the same effect as would a failure to object.
case involves a closed period of disability. Stamback filed
for disability insurance benefits (DIB) on June 4, 2009
alleging disability beginning April 15, 2003. He was insured
through December 31, 2008. Thus, he must establish disability
on or before that date in order to be entitled to DIB.
DIB claim was denied in a written decision issued by the
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on July 14, 2011.
(Administrative Record, hereinafter "R." at 19-27.)
The ALJ determined Stamback had the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform a limited range of light work (R.
23), and found at step five of the sequential evaluation
process that Stamback could perform jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy (R. 26);
therefore, he was not disabled. The Appeals Council denied
review (R. 1-4), and Stamback appealed. On the motion of the
Commissioner, the case was remanded for further
administrative proceedings. (R. 2047, 2051.)
meantime, Stamback filed an application for supplemental
security income (SSI) on July 25, 2011, which was approved.
State agency physician Bert Spetzler, M.D., determined that
Stamback had the RFC to perform only sedentary work and,
given his age, education and lack of transferable skills, the
medical-vocational rules directed a finding of disability.
Stamback was therefore entitled to SSI benefits beginning
July 25, 2011.
remand, the ALJ held two administrative hearings on
Stamback's DIB claim (R. 1986-2023, 2024-46), and
enlisted the assistance of Dr. Leonard Rubin in conducting an
independent review of the medical evidence in this case and
opining as to Stamback's RFC (R. 2225-37). In a decision
issued on October 19, 2015, the ALJ denied Stamback's DIB
claim for benefits, again finding Stamback had the RFC to
perform a limited range of light work during the relevant
period, and determining at step five that there were jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that Stamback could perform. (R. 1963-78.) The Appeals
Council denied Stamback's request for review, and this
lengthy summary judgment brief, Stamback raised six
arguments before the magistrate judge in support of
his contention that the ALJ's decision to deny his DIB
claim is not supported by substantial evidence.
Stamback's objections to the magistrate judge's
report and recommendation mirror those six summary judgment
arguments. Compare Pl.'s Obj., ECF No. 24 with
Pl.'s Summ. J. Br., ECF No. 15. On the whole,
Stamback's objections are general objections to the
magistrate judge's conclusions; he seeks review of his
entire case, rather than points to specific errors in the
magistrate judge's analysis. This defeats the entire
purpose of magistrate judge review. See Midgette,
478 F.3d at 621-22; see also Howard v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs.. 932 F.2d 505');">932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir.
instance, on summary judgment, Stamback argued the ALJ erred
in failing to give greater weight to the opinions of his
treating cardiologist, Dr. McLuckie, and primary care
physician, Dr. Watts, as to Stamback's RFC. After
considering these arguments, the magistrate judge held that
the ALJ appropriately considered the factors set forth in 20
C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2)-(5) and adequately explained his
reasons for giving these opinions little weight. The
magistrate judge determined that substantial evidence in the
record supports the ALJ's decision in that regard. Report
& Recommendation, ECF No. 23, at 9-11. In his objections,
Stamback argues this conclusion is erroneous for a number of
reasons, all of which he previously argued in his summary
• The ALJ erroneously stated that Stamback's
treatment with Dr. McLuckie ended "long" before Dr.
McLuckie completed his cardiac RFC form in May 2011, as
Stamback had treated with another doctor in the same
practice, Dr. Rutherford, in December 2010. Compare
Pl.'s Obj., ECF ...