United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Elizabeth K. Dillon, United States District Judge.
Jasmine K., on behalf of J.G, a minor child, brought this
action for review of the final decision made by defendant,
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(Commissioner), finding J.G. not disabled and therefore
denying her claim for supplemental security income (SSI)
under the Social Security Act (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 March 15, 2019, the magistrate
judge issued his R&R, finding that substantial evidence
supported the Commissioner's decision. (R&R, Dkt. No.
21.) Jasmine filed a timely objection on March 29, 2019. (Pl.
Obj., Dkt. No. 22.)
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
Jasmine's motion for summary judgment, and affirm the
court adopts the recitation of facts and procedural
background as set forth in the report. (R&R 2-6.)
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) (quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB,
305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). 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
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 “[t]he 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.
Colvin, 100 F.Supp.3d 487, 497 (E.D. Va. 2015).
Jasmine K.'s Objections
brief to the magistrate judge in support of summary judgment,
Jasmine argued that three of the ALJ's decisions were not
supported by substantial evidence: that J.G. has less than
marked limitation in interacting and relating with others;
that J.G. has less than marked limitation in health and
physical well-being; and that J.G.'s and Jasmine's
subjective complaints were not entirely credible. (Pl. Mot.
Summ. J. 3-9, Dkt. No. 15.) Jasmine's objections to the
magistrate judge's recommendation largely reiterate those
arguments. (See, e.g., Pl. Obj. 1 (“The Report
and Recommendation erred in concluding substantial evidence
supports the ALJ's determination that J.G. had a less
than marked limitation in the domain of interacting and
relating with others.”); id. at 2 (“The
Report and Recommendation erred in concluding substantial
evidence supports the ALJ's determination that plaintiff
had no serious problems in the domain of health and physical
well-being.”); id. at 3 (“The Report and
Recommendation erred in concluding substantial evidence
support [sic] the ALJ's determination regarding the
allegations of J.G. and J.G.'s mother . . . .”).)
Jasmine's objections are mostly a condensed version of
her summary judgment brief, and the court will not address
arguments that were thoroughly explored by the magistrate
judge. Nonetheless, even if the court were to consider the
objections de novo, it would conclude that the magistrate
judge's reasoning is correct and the ALJ's
determination is supported by substantial evidence.
Interacting and relating with others
first argues that the ALJ erred by considering only Dr.
Gauthier's consultative exam in reaching her decision
that J.G. had a less than marked limitation in the domain of
interacting and relating with others. (Id. at 1.)
She is correct that the ALJ relied on the report to find that
“[a]t the consultative examination, [J.G.] was afraid
of the examiner as a stranger but did show affection to her
caregivers and walked toward her examiners. She pointed to
objects to show people something interesting, and she was
able to interact appropriately with others.” (R. 69,
Dkt. No. 8.) However, Jasmine singles out this passage from
the ALJ's decision, apparently suggesting that this was
the full ...