United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Danville Division
VICKI J. GOINS, Plaintiff,
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner Defendant.
JACKSON L. KISER SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
me is the Report and Recommendation (“R&R”)
of the United States Magistrate Judge recommending that I
deny Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No.
14], grant the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment
[ECF No. 18], and affirm the Commissioner's decision. The
R&R was filed on August 31, 2018 [ECF No. 22], and
Plaintiff filed her objections on September 14 [ECF No. 23].
The Commissioner responded [ECF No. 24], and the matter is
now ripe for review. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). After
careful review and consideration, and for the reasons stated
below, I will overrule Plaintiff's objections and grant
the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment.
STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
December 30, 2015, Plaintiff Vicki J. Goins
(“Plaintiff”) filed an application for disability
insurance benefits pursuant to Title II of the Social
Security Act (“the Act”), and supplemental
security income pursuant to Title XVI of the Act.
See 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-33; 1381- 1383f
(2018). (See R. 63-75.) In her applications,
Plaintiff alleged that she had been disabled since May 1,
2013, due to a combination of migraines, high blood pressure,
idiopathic peripheral neuropathy, osteoarthritis, atrial
fibrillation, anxiety, depression, and acid reflux.
(Id.) The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's claims
initially on March 16, 2016 (R. 68, 75), and again upon
reconsideration on April 12, 2016. (See R. 87, 101.)
requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge and on
October 4, 2016, Plaintiff appeared with her attorney before
Administrative Law Judge Brian P. Kilbane (“the
ALJ”). (R. 37-70.) Both Plaintiff and a vocational
expert, James Ginard, testified. (Id.) In a written
decision dated November 28, 2016, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act.
(See generally R. 21-36.) The ALJ found that
Plaintiff suffered from a “history of congestive heart
failure, status-post pacemaker placement, hypertension,
peripheral neuropathy, and chronic atrial fibrillation,
” which qualified as severe impairments. (R. 22-26
(citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) &
416.920(c)).) The ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination or impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (R.
26 (citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525,
404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925, & 416.926).)
consideration of the entire Record, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) & 416.967(b), except that
occasionally climb ramps and stairs, never climb ladders,
ropes or scaffolds, frequently balance, occasionally stoop,
kneel, crouch, and crawl, and should avoid concentrated
exposure to vibration, fumes, odors, dusts, gases, and poor
ventilation, as well as workplace hazards such as unprotected
heights and dangerous moving machinery.
27.) The ALJ concluded that, based on his determination of
her RFC, Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work as a
cosmetologist. (R. 34-36 (citing 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1565 & 416.965.) Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. (R.
36.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review (R. 1-3), and the decision of the ALJ became the final
decision of the Commissioner on March 29, 2017.
22, 2017, Plaintiff filed suit in this Court to challenge the
final decision of the Commissioner. (Compl. [ECF No. 2].)
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), I referred the
case to the United States Magistrate Judge for consideration.
On December 6, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment
[ECF No. 14]. The Commissioner filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment on February 5, 2018 [ECF No. 18]. On August 31,
Judge Hoppe filed a Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”), recommending that I deny
Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, grant the
Commissioner's motion for summary judgment, and affirm
the decision of the Commissioner. (R&R, Aug. 31, 2018
[ECF No. 22].) On September 14, Plaintiff filed timely
objections to the R&R. (Pl.'s Obj., Sept. 14, 2018
[ECF No. 23].) The Commissioner responded on September 25
[ECF No. 24], so the matter is now ripe for review.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
has limited the judicial review I may exercise over decisions
of the Social Security Commissioner. I am required to uphold
the decision where: (1) the Commissioner's factual
findings are supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the
Commissioner applied the proper legal standard. See
42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2014); Craig v. Chater, 76
F.3d 585, 589 (4th Cir. 1996). The Fourth Circuit has long
defined substantial evidence as “such relevant evidence
as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Mastro v. Apfel, 270 F.3d 171,
176 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Richardson v. Perales,
402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). In other words, the substantial
evidence standard is satisfied by producing more than a
scintilla but less than a preponderance of the evidence.
Laws v. Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640, 642 (4th Cir.
Commissioner is charged with evaluating the medical evidence
and assessing symptoms, signs, and findings to determine the
functional capacity of the claimant. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1527-404.1545 (2014); see Shively v. Heckler,
739 F.2d 987, 990 (4th Cir. 1984) (noting that it is the role
of the ALJ, not the vocational expert, to determine
disability). The Regulations grant the Commissioner latitude
in resolving factual inconsistencies that may arise during
the evaluation of the evidence. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1527, 416.927 (2014). Unless the decision lacks
substantial evidence to support it, the ultimate
determination of whether a claimant is disabled is for the
ALJ and the Commissioner. See id. §§
404.1527(e), 416.927(e); Walker v. Bowen, 834 F.2d
635, 640 (7th Cir. 1987). If the ALJ's resolution of the
conflicts in the evidence is supported by substantial
evidence, then I must affirm the Commissioner's final
decision. Laws, 368 F.2d at 642. In reviewing the
evidence, I may not “undertake to re-weigh conflicting
evidence, make credibility determinations, or substitute [my]
judgment for that of the Secretary, ” Mastro,
270 F.3d at 176 (quoting Craig, 76 F.3d at 589), or
the secretary's designate, the ALJ, Craig, 76
F.3d at 589 (quoting Walker, 834 F.2d at 640).
has lodged two objections: first, the Magistrate Judge erred
in concluding that the ALJ considered Plaintiff's
credibility regarding the limiting effects of her conditions;
and second, the Magistrate Judge erred in concluding that the
ALJ properly considered the ...