United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
RAYMOND A. JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is currently before the Court on Plaintiff Nicholas
Bewley's (hereinafter "Plaintiff) Objection to the
Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
brought this action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and
1383(c)(3), seeking judicial review of the decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security, denying Plaintiffs claims
for a disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and
supplemental security income ("SSI"), pursuant to
the Social Security Act. On March 13, 2018, pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), this Court entered an order
designating the United States Magistrate to conduct hearings
and submit proposed findings of fact and, if applicable,
recommendations for the disposition of this matter. ECF No.
12. On September 24, 2018, the Magistrate Judge filed his
Report and Recommendation ("Report"), in which he
recommended that the Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment
be DENIED; that Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment be GRANTED; and that the
final decision of the Commissioner be
AFFIRMED. ECF No. 19. The Report also
advised the parties of their right to file written objections
to the findings and recommendations the Magistrate Judge
made. Id. at 18. The clerk provided all of the
parties copies of the Report. Id. On October 9,
2018, Plaintiff filed an Objection to the Magistrate
Judge's Report. ECF No. 20. On October 23, 2018,
Defendant filed a Response to Plaintiffs Objection. ECF No.
21. This matter is now ripe for disposition by the Court.
considering a party's objections to the findings and
recommendations of the Magistrate Judge, a district judge
"must determine de novo any part of the magistrate
judge's disposition that has been properly objected
to." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); 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 on such
objections by a district judge, thus satisfying the
requirements of Article III."). The phrase "de
novo", as used in Rule 72, means that a district court
judge must give "fresh consideration" to portions
of the magistrate judge's report and recommendation.
United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 675 (1980).
In other words, '"the Court should make an
independent determination of the issues' and should not
give any special weight to the prior determination."
Id. (quoting United States v. First City
Nat'l Bank, 386 U.S. 361, 368 (1967)).
de novo review, "the magistrate judge's report and
recommendation carries no presumptive weight, and the
district court may accept, reject or modify the report, in
whole or in part, and may recommit the matter to the
magistrate judge with instructions." Halloway v.
Bashara, 176 F.R.D. 207, 209-10 (E.D. Va. 1997);
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3) ("The district judge may accept,
reject, or modify the recommended decision, receive further
evidence, or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with
Court has carefully and independently reviewed the record in
this case and Plaintiffs objection to the Report. Having done
so, the Court finds that there are no meritorious reasons to
sustain Plaintiffs objection.
objects to the Magistrate Judge's finding that the
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") properly allotted
little weight to the opinions of Plaintiffs treating and
consulting physicians. ECF No. 20 at 1. Specifically, relying
upon 20 C.F.R. Section 404.1527(c)(1), Plaintiff argues that
more weight should be given to the assessments recorded by
examining physicians as opposed to assessments provided by
non-examining physicians. A Court reviewing a decision made
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). "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." Id. (citations omitted).
the "attending physicians rule," the medical
opinion of a claimant's treating physician should be
given "great weight" and "may be disregarded
only if there is persuasive contradictory evidence."
Coffman v. Bowen, 829 F.2d 514, 517 (4th Cir. 1987).
Accordingly, "if a physician's opinion is not
supported by clinical evidence or if it is inconsistent with
other substantial evidence, it should be accorded
significantly less weight." Craig, 76 F.3d at
590; Mastro v. Apfel, 270 F.3d 171, 178 (4th Cir.
2001) ("[A] treating physician's opinion on the
nature and severity of the claimed impairment is entitled to
controlling weight if it is well-supported by medically
acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and
is not inconsistent with the other substantial evidence in
to Plaintiffs lower back injuries sustained in 2002,
Plaintiff worked as a painter and maintenance worker in a
pool hall. R. at 32. After spinal infusion surgery in 2002,
Plaintiff underwent no additional corrective surgery and
continuously physically cared for himself even though he
never returned to work. R. at 34, 36, 41 -43. Plaintiff s
medical records from October of 2011 through January of 2017
indicate ongoing treatment for chronic back pain. R. at
306-29, 373-614, 675-744. During this time frame Plaintiffs
treating physician was Dr. Herbert Knight ("Dr.
Knight"). Plaintiff complained of "chronic low back
pain with limitations of range of motion, no paresthesia, or
numbness" and Dr. Knight appropriately adjusted his
medications throughout this time frame. R. at 415-59. In
December 2013, Dr. Knight reported Plaintiff maintained full
range of motion in his extremities with lower back pain
preventing him from bending more than ten degrees. R. at 415.
Plaintiffs medical records indicate that Plaintiff repeatedly
reported increased functionality in response to his
medication management as proscribed by Dr. Knight. R. at 393,
visiting a neurosurgical specialist, Dr. David Waters,
Plaintiff was prescribed physical therapy but never saw a
physical therapist for his injuries. R. at 40. "Dr.
Waters' exam showed good strength and sensation in his
lower extremities, but poor mobility of the paravertebral
muscles and hamstrings." ECF. No. 19 at 5 (R. at
671-72). Despite his prognosis, Dr. Waters did not believe
Plaintiff was a good candidate for surgery. Id.
Aside from various medications and physical therapy, no other
remedies were prescribed to plaintiff. After x-rays in
October 2014 and an MRI in November 2016, the examinations
revealed Plaintiffs impediments had not advanced and there
was no evidence of complication. R. at 376, 645-46. As the
Magistrate Judge pointed out, "Plaintiffs records
consistently reported good muscle strength, no gait
disturbance, and no prescribed use of an assistive
device." Id. at 14.
March 2015, Plaintiffs attending physician, Dr. Knight,
conducted a Residual Functional Capacity Questionnaire
indicating that Plaintiff suffered from chronic myofascial
pain syndrome in his lower back. R. at 388-89. Inconsistent
with an analysis of Plaintiffs medical records, Dr. Knight
opined that Plaintiff was only capable of sitting or standing
for ten minutes at a time and zero out of eight hours in a
work day. Id. He also concluded plaintiff could
never lift more than ten pounds at a time even though
Plaintiff stated in his testimony before the ALJ that he
could lift and carry twenty pounds at a given time. R. at 41.
Dr. Knight furthered that Plaintiff would likely be absent
from work in excess of four times per month due to Plaintiffs
diagnosis. R. at 388-89. To remedy Plaintiffs ailments, Dr.
Knight only prescribed various medications indicative of
conservative treatment for back pain. R. at 20. Such minimal
treatment is also inconsistent with the extensive
restrictions Dr. Knight assesses in his questionnaire.