United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
S. BALLOU UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Allen M. (“Allen”) filed this action challenging
the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) determining that he was not
disabled and therefore not eligible for disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”) under the Social Security Act
(“Act”). 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-433.
Specifically, Allen alleges that the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) failed to properly evaluate his visual
limitations and erred in giving less weight to the opinion of
the consultative examiner. I conclude that substantial
evidence supports the Commissioner's decision on all
grounds. Accordingly, I RECOMMEND DENYING
Allen's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 12), and
GRANTING the Commissioner's Motion for
Summary Judgment (Dkt. 14).
Court limits its review to a determination of whether
substantial evidence exists to support the Commissioner's
conclusion that Allen failed to demonstrate that he was
disabled under the Act. Mastro v. Apfel, 270 F.3d 171,
176 (4th Cir. 2001). “Substantial evidence is such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion; it consists of more than a
mere scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less than a
preponderance.” Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585,
589 (4th Cir. 1996) (internal citations omitted). The final
decision of the Commissioner will be affirmed where
substantial evidence supports the decision. Hays v.
Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990).
protectively filed for DIB on May 10, 2013, claiming that his
disability began on December 4, 2012. R. 212. The Commissioner
denied the application at the initial and reconsideration
levels. R. 85, 101. On May 18, 2016, ALJ Thomas W. Erwin held
an administrative hearing to consider Allen's disability
claim. R. 32-63. Allen was represented by an attorney at the
hearing, which included testimony from Allen and vocational
expert Mark Hileman. Id.
7, 2016, the ALJ entered his decision analyzing Allen's
claim under the familiar five-step process,  and denying
Allen's claim for disability. R. 11-26. The ALJ found
that Allen suffered from the severe impairments of
degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis of the left
shoulder, obesity, diabetes mellitus with peripheral
neuropathy, and the presence of a foreign metallic object in
his right foot with a heel spur. R. 13. The ALJ determined
that Allen retained the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform a limited range of light work
and that he (1) can lift and carry 10 pounds frequently and
20 pounds occasionally; (2) can stand and walk for six hours
in an eight-hour workday and sit for two hours in an
eight-hour workday; (3) can occasionally reach overhead with
his left upper extremity, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch,
crawl, and climb ramps and stairs; (4) can never climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; and (5) “must avoid more
than occasional exposure to vibration, operational control of
moving machinery, unprotected heights, and hazardous
machinery. R. 16. The ALJ determined that while Allen cannot
return to his old job as a garbage collector, he can work
jobs that exist in substantial numbers in the national
economy such as cashier II, checker, and laundry folder. R.
24-25. Thus, the ALJ concluded that Allen was not disabled.
appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council, but
his request for review was denied. R. 1-3. This appeal
contends that the ALJ erred by finding that his visual
limitations were non-severe and by giving less weight to the
opinion of the consultative examiner.
has a history of diabetic retinopathy. In July 2013,
Allen's family physician, Lewis J. Singer, M.D., referred
him to John C. Randolph, M.D., at the Vistar Eye Center. R.
466. On August 2, 2013, Allen reported blurry vision,
distorted faces on television screens, and visual acuity
affected at all distances. R. 546. Dr. Randolph conducted a
visual acuity examination and found Allen's right eye
vision to be 20/100-1 and left eye vision to be 20/30. R.
547. Dr. Randolph diagnosed clinically significant diabetic
macular edema (“CSDME”), diabetic retinopathy,
and diabetes with ophthalmic manifestations. R. 549. Dr.
Randolph administered Avastin injections for Allen's
CSDME in his right eye, explained that laser treatment may be
necessary for his left eye, and counseled him to monitor his
blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Id. Allen
followed up with Dr. Randolph on August 8, 2013, reporting
stable vision that is still blurry in his right eye. R. 539.
An eye examination showed 20/70 right eye vision and 20/30
left eye vision. R. 540. Dr. Randolph performed a grid laser
procedure on Allen's right eye, and counseled him to
monitor his blood pressure and blood sugar levels. R. 542.
Allen returned to Dr. Randolph on August 16, 2013, explaining
that his vision has improved since the grid laser treatment.
R. 535. Allen's vision had improved to 20/80 in his right
eye and 20/30 in his left eye. Dr. Randolph performed
another grid laser treatment on Allen's right eye, and
directed him to follow up in two months. R. 537.
returned to Dr. Randolph in October 2013, reporting no
changes in visual acuity, occasional dryness in his right
eye, and occasional wateriness in his left eye. R. 530. Allen
described his symptoms as mild. Id. Dr. Randolph
stated that Allen does not monitor his blood sugar on a
regular basis. Id. Allen's vision was 20/100
in his right eye and 20/30 in his left eye. R. 531. Dr.
Randolph noted decreased edema in Allen's right eye and
explained that another grid laser procedure may be necessary.
He cautioned Allen once again on the “ocular and
systemic benefits of proper [blood pressure and blood sugar]
control.” R. 533.
returned to Dr. Randolph in December 2013. R. 525.
Allen's central vision was distorted in his right eye,
but he did not report any new complications. Id.
Allen's vision was rated as 20/100 in his right eye and
20/25 in his left eye. R. 526. Dr. Randolph conducted a focal
laser treatment on Allen's right eye and again ...