United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Michael F. Urbanski Chief United States District Judge
social security disability appeal was referred to the
Honorable Robert S. Ballou, United States Magistrate Judge,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), for proposed
findings of fact and a recommended disposition. The
magistrate judge filed a report and recommendation (R&R)
on June 25, 2019, recommending that the plaintiffs motion for
summary judgment be denied, the Commissioner's motion for
summary judgment be granted, and the Commissioner's final
decision be affirmed. Plaintiff Carlos E.
("Carlos") has filed objections to the report and
this matter is now ripe for the court's consideration.
Standard of Review of Magistrate Judge Decision
objection requirement set forth in Rule 72(b) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure is designed to "train[ ] the
attention of both the district court and the court of appeals
upon only those issues that remain in dispute after the
magistrate judge has made findings and recommendations."
United States v. Midgette, 478 F.3d 616, 621 (4th
Ck. 2007) (citing Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140,
147-48 (1985)). An objecting party must do so "with
sufficient specificity so as reasonably to alert the district
court of the true ground for the objection."
Id. at 622.
To conclude otherwise would defeat the purpose of requiring
objections. We would be permitting a party to appeal any
issue that was before the magistrate judge, regardless of the
nature and scope of objections made to the magistrate
judge's report. Either the district court would then have
to review every issue in the magistrate judge's proposed
findings and recommendations or courts of appeals would be
required to review issues that the district court never
considered. In either case, judicial resources would be
wasted and the district court's effectiveness based on
help from magistrate judges would be undermined.
district court must determine de novo any portion of
the magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which
a proper objection has been made. "The district court
may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition;
receive further evidence; or return the matter to the
magistrate judge with instructions." Fed.R.Civ.P.
72(b)(3); accord 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
however, a party '"makes general or conclusory
objections that do not direct the court to a specific error
in the magistrate judge's proposed findings and
recommendations, '" de novo review is not
required. Diprospero v. Colvin, No.
5:13-cv-00088-FDW-DSC, 2014 WL 1669806, at*1 (W.D. N.C. 2014)
(quoting Howard Yellow Cabs. Inc. v. United States.
987 F.Supp. 469, 474 (W.D. N.C. 1997) (quoting Orpiano v.
Johnson. 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Ck. 1982))). "The
court will not consider those objections by the plaintiff
that are merely conclusory or attempt to object to the
entirety of the Report, without focusing the court's
attention on specific errors therein." Camper v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec. No. 4:08cv69, 2009 WL 9044111,
at *2 (E.D. Va. 2009), affd, 373 Fed.Appx. 346 (4th Cir.
2010); see Midgette. 478 F.3d at 621 ("Section
636(b)(1) does not countenance a form of generalized
objection to cover all issues addressed by the magistrate
judge; it contemplates that a party's objection to a
magistrate judge's report be specific and particularized,
as the statute directs the district court to review only
'those portions of the report or
specified proposed findings or recommendations
to which objection is
made.'''). Such general objections
"have the same effect as a failure to object, or as a
waiver of such objection." Moon v. BWX
Technologies. 742 F.Supp.2d 827, 829 (W.D. Va. 2010),
affd, 498 Fed.Appx. 268 (4th Cir. 2012). See also
Arn. 474 U.S. at 154 ("[T]he statute does not
require the judge to review an issue de novo if no
objections are filed. ...").
arguments raised before the magistrate judge does not comply
with the requirement set forth in the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure to file specific objections. Indeed, objections
that simply reiterate arguments raised before the magistrate
judge are considered to be general objections to the entirety
of the report and recommendation. See Veney v.
Astrue, 539 F.Supp.2d 841, 844-45 (W.D. Va. 2008). As
the court noted in Veney:
Allowing a litigant to obtain de novo review of her entire
case by merely reformatting an earlier brief as an objection
"mak[es] the initial reference to the magistrate
useless. The functions of the district court are effectively
duplicated as both the magistrate and the district court
perform identical tasks. This duplication of time and effort
wastes judicial resources rather than saving them, and runs
contrary to the purposes of the Magistrates Act."
Howard [v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.].
932 F.2d [505, ]  509 [(6th Cir. 1991)].
Veney, 539 F.Supp.2d at 846. A plaintiff who
reiterates his previously-raised arguments will not be given
"the second bite at the apple [he] seeks;" instead,
his re-filed brief will be treated as a general objection,
which has the same effect as would a failure to object.
Judicial Review of Social Security Determinations
not the province of a federal court to make administrative
disability decisions. Rather, judicial review of disability
cases is limited to determining whether substantial evidence
supports the Commissioner's conclusion that the plaintiff
failed to meet his burden of proving disability. See Hays
v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990); see
also Laws v. Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640, 642 (4th Cir.
1966). In so doing, the court may neither undertake a de
novo review of the Commissioner's decision nor
re-weigh the evidence of record. Hunter v. Sullivan,
993 F.2d 31, 34 (4th Cir. 1992). Evidence is substantial
when, considering the record as a whole, it might be deemed
adequate to support a conclusion by a reasonable mind,
Richardson v. Perales. 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971), or
when it would be sufficient to refuse a directed verdict in a
jury trial. Smith v. Chater. 99 F.3d 635, 638 (4th
evidence is not a "large or considerable amount of
evidence," Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552,
565 (1988), but is more than a mere scintilla and somewhat
less than a preponderance. Perales, 402 U.S. at 401;
Laws, 368 F.2d at 642. "It means-and means
only-'such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'"
Biestek v. Berryhill. 139 S.Ct. 1148 (2019) (quoting
Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229
(1938)). If the Commissioner's decision is supported by
substantial evidence, it must be affirmed. 42 U.S.C. §
405(g); Perales. 402 U.S. at 401.
objects to the following findings by the magistrate judge:
(1) that the ALJ did not commit legal errors in his
assessment of Carlos's residual functional capacity (RFC)
and that the assessment is supported by substantial evidence;
(2) that the ALJ considered and gave proper weight to
Carlos's subjective complaints; and (3) that new evidence
submitted to the Appeals Council did not warrant remand of
his case. The Commissioner responded that the magistrate
judge correctly found that substantial evidence supported the
ALJ's conclusions. Because the ALJ's analysis of
Carlos's RFC relies in part on his assessment of
Carlos's subjective complaints, the second objection will
be addressed first.