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Yarrington v. Berryhill

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

March 5, 2018

JENNIFER LYNN YARRINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          FINAL ORDER

          ARENDA L. WRIGHT ALLEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Jennifer Yarrington brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Acting Social Security Commissioner ("the Commissioner") to deny her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and 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 a United States Magistrate Judge for a Report and Recommendation ("R&R"). ECF No. 7.

         In the R&R filed on January 26, 2018, the Magistrate Judge concluded that the decision by the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") to deny Ms. Yarrington's claim was supported by substantial evidence. ECF No. 14. Accordingly, the Magistrate Judge recommended denying Ms. Yarrington's Motion for Summary Judgment and Motion to Remand (ECF Nos. 9, 10), granting the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 12), affirming the decision of the Commissioner, and dismissing the case with prejudice. ECF No. 14 at 21.

         By copy of the Report, each party was advised of the right to file written objections to the finds and recommendations made by the Magistrate Judge. Id. On February 9, 2018, the Court received Plaintiffs objections to the Magistrate Judge's R&R. ECF No. 15. On February 23, 2018, the Court received the Commissioner's response to Plaintiffs objections. ECF No. 16.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         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, 76 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).

         II. BACKGROUND

         As recounted in the R&R, Ms. Yarrington initially filed an application for DIB and SSI in September 2012, alleging disability due to migraines and mental health impairments. ECF No. 14 at 7-8. After the Social Security Administration denied her initial application and her application on reconsideration, the ALJ found that Ms. Yarrington was not disabled during the period of the alleged disability and denied her claim for benefits on February 10, 2016. The Appeals Council denied Ms. Yarrington's request for review on February 7, 2017. Id. at 2.

         In denying Ms. Yarrington's application, the ALJ made the following determinations, as required by 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 and 416.920: (1) that Ms. Yarrington had not engaged in substantial gainful activity between the alleged onset date, April 27, 2012, and the date of the hearing; (2) that Ms. Yarrington suffered from severe impairments that included both mental and physical conditions; (3) that the evidence failed to demonstrate that Ms. Yarrington 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; (4) that Ms. Yarrington was unable to perform past relevant work; but that (5) work suitable for Ms. Yarrington's residual functional capacity existed in significant numbers in the national economy. See Id. at 11-12. After the Appeals Council denied Ms. Yarrington's request for review, Ms. Yarrington filed the instant Complaint for judicial review of the Commissioner's decision, which was then referred to the Magistrate Judge. See ECF Nos. 1, 7. As reviewed above, the Magistrate Judge's R&R recommended that Ms. Yarrington's Motion for Summary Judgment and Motion to Remand be denied, that the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment be granted, and that the final decision of the Commissioner be affirmed. See ECF No. 14 at 21.

         Ms. Yarrington presents two objections to the R&R, both of which are substantially similar to the grounds presented in her Motion for Summary Judgment and Motion for Remand: (1) that the ALJ, in rejecting the opinion of Ms. Yarrington's treating psychiatrist as to Ms. Yarrington's ability to work, did not properly weigh the medical opinion evidence regarding her mental impairments; and (2) that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate Ms. Yarrington's credibility. ECF No. 15 at 2-4.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Weight of Medical Opinion Evidence Regarding Ms. ...


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