Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Deborah M. B. v. Saul

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Danville Division

September 12, 2019

DEBORAH M. B., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JACKSON L. KISER, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before me is the Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) of the United States Magistrate Judge recommending that I grant the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 17] and affirm the Commissioner's decision. The R&R was filed on February 13, 2019 [ECF No. 19], and Plaintiff filed her Objection on February 27 [ECF No. 20]. The Commissioner did not respond, so 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 Objection and grant the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On September 23, 2013, Plaintiff Deborah B. (“Plaintiff”) filed an application for disability insurance benefits pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”). See 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-33 (2018). (R. 145-148.) In her applications, Plaintiff alleged that she had been disabled since July 14, 2012, due to a combination of weakness, mesenteric ischemia, inability to eat without pain, and cardiovascular disease. (See R. 176.) The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's claims initially on April 24, 2014 (R. 52-61), and again upon reconsideration on December 12, 2014 (R. 63-73).

         Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge and on August 4, 2016, Plaintiff appeared with her attorney before Administrative Law Judge Susan G. Smith (“the ALJ”). (R. 36-51.) Both Plaintiff and a vocational expert, Lori Cowan, testified. (Id.) In a written decision dated September 14, 2016, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. (See generally R. 17-28.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from coronary artery disease and an abdominal aneurysm, both of which qualified as severe impairments. (R. 19 (citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c)).) The ALJ also found 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. 20-21 (citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526).)

         After 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), except that she could

occasionally climb ramps/stairs, never climb ladders/ropes/ scaffolds, occasionally stoop, kneel, balance, crouch, and never crawl, and avoid concentrated exposure to hazards including uneven terrain, unprotected heights, and dangerous moving machinery.

(R. 21.) The ALJ concluded that, based on her determination of Plaintiff's RFC, Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work as a bookkeeper and customer service representative. (R. 27 (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1565.) Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. (R. 27.) 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 October 4, 2017. (Id.)

         On December 3, 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 June 13, 2018, the Commissioner filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. [ECF No. 17.] On February 13, 2019, Judge Hoppe filed a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”), recommending that I grant the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment and affirm the decision of the Commissioner. (R&R, Feb. 13, 2019 [ECF No. 19].) On February 27, Plaintiff filed timely objections to the R&R. (Pl.'s Obj., Feb. 27. 2019 [ECF No. 20].) The Commissioner did not respond, so the matter is now ripe for review.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Congress 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. 1966).

         The 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).

         III. DISCUSSION

         In her sole objection, Plaintiff takes issue with the weight given by the ALJ to the opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Jaff, and the ALJ's consideration of Plaintiff's subjective complaints of pain. As both issues ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.