United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Harrisonburg Division
Elizabeth K. Dillon United States District Judge.
Mack W. brought this action for review of the final decision
made by defendant, Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration, denying his claim for disability insurance
benefits under the Social Security Act. Defendant moved for
summary judgment, and pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(B), the court referred the motion to U.S.
Magistrate Judge Joel C. Hoppe for a report and
recommendation (R&R). On February 25, 2019, the
magistrate judge issued his R&R, finding that substantial
evidence supported the Commissioner's decision. (Dkt. No.
22.) Mack filed a timely objection on March 11, 2019. (Dkt.
de novo review of the pertinent portions of the record, the
report, and the filings by the parties, in conjunction with
the applicable law, the court agrees with the magistrate
judge's recommendation. Accordingly, the court will grant
the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment and affirm
the Commissioner's decision.
court adopts the recitation of facts and procedural
background as set forth in the report. (R&R 3-14, Dkt.
Standard of Review
court's review of the administrative law judge's
(ALJ) underlying decision is limited. Specifically,
“[a] district court's primary function in reviewing
an administrative finding of no disability is to determine
whether the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial
evidence.” Coffman v. Bowen, 829 F.2d 514, 517
(4th Cir. 1987). Substantial evidence does not require a
“large or considerable amount of evidence, ”
Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 564- 65 (1988);
rather, it requires “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 401 (1971). This is “more than a mere scintilla of
evidence [and] somewhat less than a preponderance.”
Laws v. Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640, 642 (4th Cir.
as here, a matter has been referred to a magistrate judge
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), this court reviews de
novo the portions of the report to which a timely objection
has been made. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3) (“The district
judge must determine de novo any part of the magistrate
judge's disposition that has been properly objected
to.”); United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667,
673-74 (1980) (finding that de novo review of the
magistrate's report and recommendation comports with due
objection to trigger de novo review, it must be made
“with sufficient specificity so as reasonably to alert
the district court of the true ground for the
objection.” United States v. Midgette, 478
F.3d 616, 622 (4th Cir. 2007). Further, objections must
respond to a specific error in the report and recommendation.
See Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir.
1982). General or conclusory objections, therefore, are not
proper; they are in fact considered the equivalent of a
waiver. Id. Likewise, an objection that merely
repeats the arguments made in the briefs before the
magistrate judge is a general objection and is treated as a
failure to object. Moon v. BWX Techs, 742 F.Supp.2d
827, 829 (W.D. Va. 2010). As other courts have recognized in
the social security context, “[t]he Court may reject
perfunctory or rehashed objections to R&Rs that amount to
a second opportunity to present the arguments already
considered by the Magistrate Judge.” Heffner v.
Berryhill, No. 2:16-cv-820, 2017 WL 3887155, at *3
(D.S.C. Sept. 6, 2017) (quoting Felton v. Colvin,
No. 2:12-cv-558, 2014 WL 315773, at *7 (E.D. Va. Jan. 28,
Mack W.'s Objections
argues that the magistrate judge's finding that the ALJ
properly weighed the opinion of his treating physician, Dr.
Anthony Martinez, should be rejected. (Pl.'s Objs. 1-6.)
to the magistrate judge's reasoning that diagnostic and
examination evidence “did not reflect the type of
serious limitations one might expect from a completely
disabling condition, ” (R&R 15), Mack contends that
the imaging was “not so underwhelming” that it
detracted from Dr. Martinez's opinion. (Pl.'s Objs.
1-2.) This argument was presented in Mack's initial brief
to the magistrate judge and, therefore, is the type of
rehashed argument rejected out of hand by the courts in
Heffner and Felton. (Dkt. No. 17, Pl.'s
Mem. 18 (“Further, contrary to the ALJ's finding
that Dr. Martinez overstated Plaintiff's limitations, the
record amply reflects Plaintiff's complaints of pain
throughout his treatment with Dr. Martinez.”).)
Moreover, the court finds no error in the magistrate
judge's reasoning. As the magistrate judge explained,
examination findings from a variety of doctors, including Dr.
Martinez, were largely normal from 2011 to 2015. (R&R
16.) Later, in specifically finding that the ALJ was correct
in assigning “limited weight” to Dr.
Martinez's opinion, the magistrate judge again noted that
“exam findings from 2011 to 2015 provided objective
evidence demonstrating that Mack W.'s back condition had
a limited effect on his ability to work.” (Id.
at 20.) The court agrees with the magistrate judge and the
ALJ that Dr. Martinez overstated Plaintiff's functional
also argues that the ALJ erred by noting purported
inconsistencies between Dr. Martinez's opinion and his
activities of daily living, such as caring for his pets,
watching television, preparing simple meals, doing laundry,
cleaning dishes, vacuuming, driving, shopping for personal
items once per week, paying bills, counting change, and
handling a savings account. (Pl.'s Objs. 3.) According to
Mack, this evidence does not translate into the ability to
perform sustained light work activity. (Id. at 3-4.)
As an initial matter, the court notes that the magistrate
judge did not discuss Mack's activities of daily living
in the context of the ALJ's assessment of Dr.
Martinez's opinion. (R&R 16-17.) Instead, the
magistrate judge explained that these activities are
“undoubtedly inconsistent with the type of extreme
limitations Mack W. described in his hearing testimony, where
he stated that he ‘can't do nothing anymore,'
R. 48, and that he typically spends his days in the house
with his dogs ‘in pain most of the time,' R.
53.” (Id. at 17.) This was, essentially, a
credibility finding, such that there was substantial evidence
to support the ALJ's conclusion that Mack's daily
activities are “not limited to the extent one would
expect given the complaints of disabling symptoms and