United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
M. BRINKEMA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is a Report and Recommendation ("Report")
issued by a magistrate judge on June 19, 2018 [Dkt. No. 19],
which recommended that plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment
[Dkt. No. 10] be granted in part, that defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgment [Dkt. No. 13] be denied, and that the
final decision of defendant be vacated and this action
remanded for further proceedings. See Report at 24. The
parties were advised that any objections to the Report had to
be filed within 14 days and that failure to file a timely
objection waived "appellate review of any judgment based
on it." Id. at 26. As of July 4, 2018, no party
has filed an objection. The Court has reviewed the Report,
plaintiffs and defendant's summary judgment motions, and
the case file and adopts the Report in full.
civil action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), plaintiff
seeks judicial review of defendant's final decision
denying plaintiffs applications for Disability Insurance
Benefits and Supplemental Security Income under the Social
Security Act. See Id. at 1. Plaintiffs applications
claim that she is disabled because of a variety of
conditions, including "a herniated disc, degenerative
disc disease, a back injury, arthritis, endometriosis,
cervicalgia, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder,
seasonal [a]ffective disorder, a knee injury to the left
knee, an injury to the left pinky finger, and blurred
vision." Id. at 2. Plaintiffs claims were
originally denied on February 6, 2014 and were denied on
reconsideration on July 17, 2014. Id. After this
second denial, plaintiff filed a request for a hearing in
front of an administrative law judge ("ALJ"), which
hearing occurred on July 20, 2016. Id. The ALJ
denied plaintiffs applications on August 25, 2016, and on
August 17, 2017, the Appeals Council for the Office of
Disability Adjudication and Review denied plaintiffs request
for review of the ALJ's decision, which makes the
ALJ's decision the final decision of defendant.
Id. The present civil action followed.
magistrate judge appropriately explained, this Court's
review of defendant's final decision "is limited to
determining whether the ALJ's decision was supported by
substantial evidence in the record and whether the correct
legal standard was applied in evaluating the evidence."
Id. at 2-3. Substantial evidence is "such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion." Id. at 3
(quoting Richardson v. Perales. 402 U.S. 389, 401
(1971)). The Court finds that the magistrate judge correctly
determined that even under this deferential standard, the
ALJ's decision must be vacated and this action remanded
for further proceedings because the ALJ failed to
appropriately explain how she evaluated the reports produced
by Dr. William Carter, plaintiffs treating physician.
Id. at 10-16. Specifically, Dr. Carter's January
2016 report explicitly states that plaintiff can only
participate in employment and training activities for twenty
hours per week; however, when determining plaintiffs residual
functional capacity, the ALJ did not address this limitation.
Id. at 12. Moreover, although the ALJ assigned some
portions of Dr. Carter's reports "great weight"
and "rejected" other portions of his reports, the
ALJ never clearly explained whether she intended to accept or
reject this twenty-hour-per-week limitation. See Id.
magistrate judge correctly explained, a "necessary
predicate to engaging in substantial evidence review is a
record of the basis for the ALJ's ruling," which
means that the "record should include a discussion of
which evidence the ALJ found credible and why, and specific
application of the pertinent legal requirements to the record
evidence." Id. at 13 (quoting Radford v.
Colvin. 734 F.3d 288, 295 (4th Cir. 2013)). The
magistrate judge correctly concluded that the ALJ's
decision fails to meet this bar by not clearly explaining
what weight the ALJ assigned to Dr. Carter's opinion that
plaintiff is limited to twenty hours of work per week and by
not including any discussion of this limitation in her
determination of plaintiffs residual functional capacity.
Lastly, the magistrate judge correctly concluded that the
appropriate remedy for such a failure is to remand to the
agency for "reconsideration of the evidence and for
clarification of the evaluation of Dr. Carter's
opinions." Id. at 12-13.
the Report is ADOPTED, plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment
[Dkt. No. 10] is GRANTED IN PART, defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment [Dkt. No. 13] is DENIED, and it is hereby
that the ALJ's decision be and is VACATED and this action
be and is REMANDED to the Social Security Administration for
further administrative proceedings consistent with the Report
and this Order.
Clerk is directed to enter judgment in this matter in
plaintiffs favor pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 58, close this
civil action, and forward copies of this Order to counsel of
Because this error alone requires
remand for further proceedings before the agency, the Court
need not specifically address plaintiffs other arguments
relating to claimed errors in the ALJ's decision;
however, the Court has reviewed the magistrate judge's
findings on these arguments and has determined that they ...