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Tyree v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Newport News Division

February 23, 2018

PHILLIP W. TYREE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          FINAL ORDER

          Arenda L. Wright Allen United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Phillip Tyree ("Plaintiff) brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Social Security Commissioner ("the Commissioner") to deny his claim for Supplemental Security Income (''SSI") under the Social Security Act. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(B) and (C), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b), and the Local Rules, this matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Lawrence R. Leonard for a Report and Recommendation ("R&R"). ECF No. 10.

         In the R&R filed on January 23, 2018, Magistrate Judge Leonard concluded that the decision by the Administrative Law Judge ("ALP) to deny Mr. Tyree's claim was supported by substantial evidence, and recommended denying Mr. Tyree's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 12), granting the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 14), affirming the decision of the Commissioner, and dismissing the case with prejudice. ECF No. 19 at 17.

         By copy of the Report, each party was advised of the right to file written objections to the findings and recommendations made by the Magistrate Judge. Id. The Court has received Plaintiffs timely objections to the Magistrate Judge's R&R (ECF No. 20), and has considered the objections carefully.


         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b)(3), the Court reviews de novo any part of a magistrate judge's recommendation to which a party has properly objected. See also Wimmer v. Cook, 774 F.2d 68, 73 (4th Cir. 1985) ("[A]ny individual findings of fact or recommendations for disposition by [the magistrate judge], if objected to, are subject to final de novo determination ... by a district judge ....").

         A court reviewing a decision made in accordance with the Social Security Act must determine whether the factual findings are supported by substantial evidence and were reached through application of the correct legal standard. Craig v. Chater, 16 F.3d 585, 589 (4th Cir. 1996). Accordingly, if the Commissioner's denial of benefits is supported by substantial evidence and was reached by applying the correct legal standard, the Court must affirm the Commissioner's final decision. Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990).

         "Substantial evidence" is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion; [i]t consists of more than a mere scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less than a preponderance." Craig, 76 F.3d at 589 (citations omitted). In reviewing for substantial evidence, this Court does not reweigh conflicting evidence, make credibility determinations, or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Id. The Commissioner's findings as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, are conclusive and must be affirmed. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971).


         As recounted in the R&R, Mr. Tyree initially filed an application for SSI on December 7, 2012, alleging disability due to diabetes, heart problems, and pain in his shoulder and feet. ECF No. 19 at 2. Mr. Tyree's application was denied on September 9, 2013; again upon reconsideration on February 5, 2014; and by the ALJ on October 15, 2015. Id. at 2.

         In denying Mr. Tyree's application, the ALJ made the following determinations, as required by 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 and 416.920: (1) that Mr. Tyree had not engaged in substantial gainful activity between the alleged onset date of September 1, 2011 and December 31, 2014, the date he was last insured; (2) that some of his alleged impairments were severe and others were not; (3) that the evidence failed to demonstrate that Mr. Tyree had an impairment or combination of impairments that equaled one of the listed impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, and that Mr. Tyree had the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work; (4) that Mr. Tyree was unable to perform past relevant work; and (5) that sedentary work suitable for Mr. Tyree existed in significant numbers in the national economy. See Id. at 8-10. The Appeals Council then denied Mr. Tyree's request for review after concluding that the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence and that Mr. Tyree's claims did not warrant review. Id. Mr. Tyree filed the instant Complaint for judicial review of the Commissioner's decision, which was then referred to Magistrate Judge Leonard. See ECF Nos.3, 10.

         As reviewed above, the Magistrate Judge's R&R recommended that Mr. Tyree's Motion for Summary Judgment be denied, that the Acting Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment be granted, and that the final decision of the Commissioner be affirmed. Mr. Tyree filed his objections to the R&R on February 5, 2018. ECF No. 20. The Commissioner filed a response on February 20, 2018. ECF No. 21.

         Mr. Tyree presents one objection to the R&R, asking the Court to reconsider the R&R in light of new evidence. He advises the Court that he has been newly diagnosed with Charcot foot, a deformity in the foot or ankle resulting from nerve damage that is often caused by diabetes; a damaged disc in his lower back; and a post-bypass surgery heart condition that requires further testing. Mr. Tyree provides evidence of these new diagnoses in the form of Virginia Commonwealth University Health medical reports from January 15, 24, and 31, 2018. See ECF No. 20-1 at 2-13. Given these new diagnoses, Mr. Tyree contends that "finding a job would be very difficult with my declining health condition and level of energy." ECF No. 20 at 1. Mr. Tyree also submits documentation of a medical discount, which covers all of the costs associated with the medical services provided by Virginia Commonwealth University Health, as further evidence of his worsening medical conditions and his ...

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