United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Elizabeth K. Dillon United States District Judge
Belinda H. brought this action for review of the final
decision made by defendant, Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration, denying her claim for social
security income (“SSI”) under the Social Security
Act. Both parties 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 Robert S. Ballou for a report and
recommendation (R&R). On August 1, 2019, the magistrate
judge issued his R&R, finding that substantial evidence
supported the Commissioner’s decision. (Dkt. No. 24.)
Plaintiff filed a timely objection on August 15, 2019.
(Pl.’s Obj., Dkt. No. 25.)
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,
deny Belinda’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 3–9.)
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. 1966).
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 process requirements).
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,
2014)). Because “the purpose of magistrate review is to
conserve judicial resources,” a “mere restatement
of the arguments raised in the summary judgment filings does
not constitute an ‘objection’ for the purposes of
district court review.” Nichols v. Comm’r of
Soc. Sec., 100 F. Supp. 3d 487, 497 (E.D. Va. 2015).
Belinda H.’s Objections
brief to the magistrate judge in support of her motion for
summary judgment, Belinda argued that the ALJ’s
assessment of her mental impairments and subjective
impairment allegations is not supported by substantial
evidence. (Pl.’s Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J.
10–18, Dkt. No. 16.) In many respects, Belinda’s
objections are a restatement of those arguments. (See,
e.g., Pl.’s Mem. 11 (“Thus, it follows that
a proper assessment of plaintiff’s RFC requires a more
in-depth discussion of his mental impairments at Step 4 than
at Step 2 or 3.
limiting plaintiff to simple, routine, tasks, simple work
related decisions, and occasional interaction with coworkers
and the public in his RFC assessment is not enough to fulfill
SSR 96-8p.”); Pl.’s Obj. 3 (“Therefore, a
proper assessment of plaintiff’s RFC under SSR 96-8p
requires a more in-depth discussion of her mental impairments
and consequently, the Report and Recommendation’s
reliance on the ALJ’s discussion of plaintiff’s
mental impairments at step 2 in support of the ALJ’s
RFC finding is in error.”).) It is not necessary for the
court to address the exact same arguments raised before the
magistrate judge. The court will, however, address three
objections raised by Belinda.
Belinda argues that the R&R mischaracterized her
testimony about her ability to work around others and her
difficulties staying on task. (R&R 11 (“The ALJ
accurately noted that Belinda testified to being able to work
around one, two, or a small amount of people, or a single
supervisor, without significant problems.”).) Belinda
initially testified that she gets “distracted by other
people,” that “being around other people”
makes her “nervous and anxious,” and mentioned
that she was fired from a job at the Dollar Store after ...