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Nanry v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division

July 12, 2018

TERESA A. NANRY, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant


          Raymond A. Jackson United Slates District Judge.

         This matter is currently before the Court on Teresa A. Nanry's ("Plaintiff') objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation ("R&R"). For the reasons set forth below, the R&R is ADOPTED, the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration's ("Defendant" or "Acting Commissioner") motion for summary judgment is GRANTED, and Plaintiffs motions for summary judgment and remand are DENIED.


         Plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income on January 31, 2013, and February 15, 2013, respectively, and alleged that due to post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD"), anxiety, depression, and other back related problems, she became disabled on November 30, 2012. R. 294-308, 367. The Acting Commissioner denied Plaintiffs application first, and again after reconsideration. R.90-153, 208-09.

         At Plaintiffs request, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") held a hearing on this matter on March 9, 2015, and again denied the benefits. R. 64-89, 154-66. The case was further appealed and on July 15, 2015, the Appeals Council vacated the ALJ's decision and remanded the case. R.173-75. The ALJ was directed to "[g]ive further consideration to the claimant's maximum mental residual functional capacity and provide appropriate rationale with specific references to evidence of record in support of the assessed limitations-----" Id. After a second hearing, the ALJ denied Plaintiffs claim for benefits on December 18, 2015. R. 22-37. On January 6, 2017, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request to review the decision, thereby making the ALJ's ruling the final decision of the Acting Commissioner. R. 1-6.

         On February 8, 2017, Plaintiff, through counsel, filed a complaint seeking the Court's review of the ALJ's decision. ECFNo. 1. The Acting Commissioner filed an Answer on June 8, 2017. ECFNo. 4. Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and a Motion to Remand on July 7, 2017, and Defendant filed a response in opposition and its own motion for summary judgment on August 7, 2017. ECF Nos. 8-12. On January 31, 2018, a United States Magistrate Judge filed an R&R, and recommended that Plaintiffs Motions for Summary Judgment and Remand be denied and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment be granted. ECF No. 13. On February 14, 2018, Plaintiff filed Objections to the R&R. ECF No. 14. On February 26, 2018, Defendant filed a response in opposition to the objections. ECF No. 15. This matter is now ripe for disposition and does not require a hearing.


         A district judge is required to "determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). The "de novo" requirement means that a district court judge must give "fresh consideration to those issues [in the R&R] to which specific objection has been made by a party." United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 675 (1980); see Wilmer 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 on such objections by a district judge"). "The district judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3).

         A district court reviewing an administrative decision under 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) (superseded by statute on other grounds). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion," and "consists of more than a mere scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less than preponderance." Id. (internal quotation and citations omitted).x`

         In reviewing for substantial evidence, the Court does not re-weigh conflicting evidence, make credibility determinations, or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner or the Commissioner's designate. Id. The ALJ's findings as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, are conclusive. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).


         Plaintiff raises two objections to the R&R: 1) the ALJ failed to properly weigh the medical opinion evidence; and 2) the ALJ failed to properly evaluate Plaintiffs credibility. ECF No. 14. After a full review of the record and the parties' briefs, the Court, having given fresh consideration to the Magistrate Judge's findings, holds that the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence. Therefore, for that reason and additional reasons discussed below, the Court ADOPTS the R&R.

         1. Medical Opinion Evidence

         Plaintiff first objects to the Magistrate Judge's finding that the ALJ did not err when it rejected the opinions from treating physicians Dr. Bryan and Dr. Zane regarding her mental impairments. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ improperly rejected the opinions of psychiatrist Dr. Bryan and psychologist Dr. Zane, while giving too much weight to the opinion ...

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