United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
AMBER L. LAWTON, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ELIZABETH K. DILLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
brought this action for review of defendant Nancy A.
Berryhill's (the commissioner's) final decision
denying her claim for supplemental security income (SSI) and
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 Robert S. Ballou 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. 21.)
timely filed written objections (Dkt. No. 22), and the
commissioner filed a response (Dkt. No. 23). 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 agrees with, and will adopt in
full, the magistrate judge's recommendation. Accordingly,
defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted,
plaintiff's motion for summary judgment will be denied,
and the court will affirm the commissioner's decision.
court adopts the recitation of facts and procedural
background as set forth in the report. (Report 2-3, 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). 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)). As
other courts have recognized in the social security context,
“[t]he Court may reject perfunctory or rehashed
objections to R & R's that amount to a second
opportunity to present the arguments already considered by
the Magistrate Judge.” Heffner v. Berryhill,
No. 2:16-cv-820, 2017 WL 3887155, at *3 (D.S.C. Sept. 6,
2017) (quoting Felton v. Colvin, No. 2:12-cv-558,
2014 WL 315773, at *7 (E.D. Va. Jan. 28, 2014)).
raises three objections to the report, and all three are the
type of “rehashed objections” that the
Heffner and Felton courts concluded could
be rejected. See Id. That is, she made the same
arguments in her summary judgment briefing before the
magistrate judge. Moreover, the report directly addresses all
first objection, she argues that the report erred in
concluding that the ALJ's evaluation of her mental
impairments and resulting limitations in concentration,
persistence, or pace were supported by substantial evidence.
(Objs. 1-2, Dkt. No. 22.) She argues that the residual
functional capacity (RFC) found by the ALJ, which simply
limited her to simple work with one to three steps, did not
account for his determination that she had mild-to-moderate
limitations in concentration, persistence, or pace.
(Id. at 2.) Thus, she contends, the ALJ erroneously
focused on her “ability to perform work and not on her
ability to sustain work over the course of an eight hour
workday.” (Id. at 1.) Lawton asserts that the
report “attempts to build a logical bridge that the ALJ
did not build in his decision.” (Id. at 2.)
noted, the court finds that this objection is simply a
rehashing of her prior arguments before the magistrate judge,
and the court could reject the objection on that basis alone.
(Compare Objs. 1-3 with Pl.'s Mem.
Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 21-26, Dkt. No. 15.) In any event, even
considering the objection de novo, the court concludes that
the magistrate judge's reasoning is correct and that the
ALJ's determination on this issue ...