United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Lynchburg Division
Jonathan H. Plaintiff, 
Andrew Saul, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
K. MOON, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on the Defendant’s Motion
for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 13), the Report and Recommendation
of United States Magistrate Judge Robert S. Ballou (Dkt. 15,
hereinafter “R&R”), and Plaintiff’s
Objection to the R&R (Dkt. 16, hereinafter
“Objection”). Pursuant to Standing Order 2011-17
and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), the Court referred this
matter to Judge Ballou for proposed findings of fact and a
recommended disposition. In the R&R, Judge Ballou
recommended that this Court grant Defendants’ motion.
(Dkt. 15, at 1). Plaintiff timely filed his Objection,
obligating the Court to undertake a de novo review
of those portions of the R&R to which objections were
made. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B); Farmer
v. McBride, 177 Fed.Appx. 327, 330 (4th Cir. 2006).
Because Plaintiff’s Objection lacks merit, the R&R
will be adopted in full.
Standard of Review
district court’s review of a magistrate judge’s
report and recommendation is undertaken de novo.
See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Farmer v.
McBride, 177 Fed.Appx. 327, 330–31 (4th Cir.
2006). While the Court gives no deference to the magistrate
judge’s proposed findings and conclusions of law in the
R&R, this Court must uphold the factual findings of the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) if they are
supported by substantial evidence and were reached through
application of the correct legal standard. See 42
U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3); Biestek v.
Berryhill, 139 S.Ct. 1148, 1152 (2019); Bird v.
Comm’r of SSA, 669 F.3d 337, 340 (4th Cir. 2012).
Under this standard of review, the Court must “look
to an existing administrative record and ask whether it
contains ‘sufficien[t] evidence’ to support the
[ALJ’s] factual determinations.”
Biestek, 139 S.Ct. at 1154 (internal citations
omitted). Substantial evidence requires more than a mere
scintilla, but less than a preponderance, of evidence.
Mastro v. Apfel, 270 F.3d 171, 176 (4th Cir. 2001).
A finding is supported by substantial evidence if it is based
on “relevant evidence [that] a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Johnson v. Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650, 653 (4th Cir.
2005) (per curiam). Where “conflicting evidence allows
reasonable minds to differ as to whether a claimant is
disabled, ” the Court must defer to the
Commissioner’s decision. Id. A reviewing court
may not “re-weigh conflicting evidence, make
credibility determinations, or substitute [its]
judgment” for that of the ALJ. Craig v.
Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589 (4th Cir. 1996) (internal
citations omitted). “Ultimately, it is the duty of the
[ALJ] reviewing a case, and not the responsibility of the
courts, to make findings of fact and to resolve conflicts in
the evidence.” Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d
1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). Thus, even if the Court would
have made contrary determinations of fact, it must
nonetheless uphold the ALJ’s decision, so long as it is
supported by substantial evidence. See Whiten v.
Finch, 437 F.2d 73, 74 (4th Cir. 1971).
Plaintiff does not appear to object to the R&R’s
recitation of the factual background and claim history in
this case, the Court incorporates that portion of the R&R
into this opinion. (See R&R at 2–4). By
way of summary, Plaintiff applied for (and was denied)
disability insurance benefits under the Social Security Act
based on his “tachycardia, chest pain, diabetic
ketoacidosis, uncontrolled type 1 diabetes, weight loss,
weakness and tiredness, body ache/sore skin/rash, vitamin D
deficiency, hyperlipidemia, postural tachycardia syndrome,
hypertension, palpitations, sleep disorder, and
bronchitis.” (Id. at 2 (citing, e.g.,
R. 100–01, 111–12)). “The ALJ found that
[Plaintiff] had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since December 18, 2013, the alleged onset date, ”
(R&R at 3 (citing R. 32)), and that Plaintiff suffered
from “the severe impairments of diabetes mellitus type
1, orthostatic hypotension with syncope, and
arrhythmia.” (Id. at 3 (citing R. 33)). The
ALJ concluded that the Plaintiff in this case “retained
the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform sedentary work with limitations.” Id.
at 3–4. Given Plaintiff’s RFC, education, age,
work experience, as well as the testimony of a vocational
expert, the ALJ found that there existed a significant number
of jobs in the national and state economies that Plaintiff
could perform. As a result, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff
was not disabled for purposes of Disability Insurance
Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under the Act. Plaintiff appealed this
decision to the Social Security Administration’s
Appeals Council, which denied his request for review on
February 12, 2018. (Id. at 4 (citing R. 1–5)).
outset, the Court notes that Plaintiff’s objections are
the same arguments he presented to Judge Ballou and the
Social Security Administration’s Appeals Council.
Indeed, large swathes of Plaintiff’s letter objecting
to the R&R are taken directly from his prior letter
appealing his case to the Appeals Council. (Compare
Objection at 1–2, with R. 255–57).
Civ. P. 72(b) requires parties to object to a magistrate
judge’s findings and recommendations “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, 621 (4th Cir. 2007).
“Rehashing arguments raised before the magistrate judge
does not comply” with this requirement. Sandra L.
v. Berryhill, No. 7:17-cv-00417, 2019 WL 1140238, at *2
(W.D. Va. Mar. 12, 2019). “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” that have the same
effect as a failure to object. Id. (citing Veney
v. Astrue, 539 F.Supp.2d 841, 844–45 (W.D. Va.
appears that Plaintiff has failed to specifically object to
any of the magistrate judge’s particular findings
contained in the R&R. Rather, Plaintiff’s letter
seems to be a generalized objection to both the ALJ’s
findings as well as the magistrate judge’s failure to
overturn them. Regardless of the specificity of
Plaintiff’s objection, however, this Court would still
find that the substantial evidence standard would prevent it
deviating from the ALJ’s findings in this case. This is
because, as the R&R notes, the ALJ “provided a
thorough discussion of [Plaintiff’s] case and her
conclusions.” (R&R, at 10). It is out of an
abundance of caution, therefore, that this Court undertakes a
de novo review of the R&R on the issues of
whether there existed substantial evidence for the
ALJ’s determinations on Plaintiff’s RFC and
whether a significant number of jobs exist that Plaintiff can
perform, as these are the two findings that Plaintiff seems
to most explicitly contest in his objection letter.
(Objection at 2) (citing the difference in job availability
between the regional economy and the local economy);
(Objection at 4) (noting how the Plaintiff’s physical
limitations impose serious difficulties upon his ability to
cope with and adapt to life’s challenges).
1) cited, discussed, and explained the weight applied to each
medical opinion in the record, 2) discussed her findings on
the severity of each of Plaintiff’s medically
determinable impairments, 3) described Plaintiff’s
allegations of impairment, the information contained in his
applications and self-reports, and his testimony, and 4)
“recognized the medical evidence in the record that
demonstrated Plaintiff’s insulin-dependent diabetes
prior to the alleged onset date” as well as the medical
evidence relating to after the alleged onset date. (R&R
at 9–10; R. 33, 35, 36– 40). As discussed in the
R&R, the ALJ concluded that the Plaintiff’s
impairments caused him periodic illness, but the ALJ
ultimately concluded the medical evidence did not support his
claims of physical limitation. (R. 46). This conclusion was
supported both by 1) Plaintiff’s claims that he was
able to provide care for his three-year-old son, clean his
room and bathroom, and do laundry, and 2) Plaintiff’s
refusal to take “appropriate measures to improve his
diabetes mellitus control.” I agree with Judge Ballou
that the ALJ properly and accurately “characterized and
described the medical evidence” in the record,
including the repeated mentions of Plaintiff’s refusal
to adhere to his medical providers’ treatment advice.
(R. 44–46). I also agree with him that a
“reasonable mind, ” Johnson, 434 F.3d at
653, could agree that Plaintiff’s ability to perform
his daily activities-including taking care of his
three-year-old son-supports a conclusion that an individual
“may not be completely disabled.” (R&R at
most, Plaintiff’s objection letter outlining the
narrative of his claim and physical limitations constitutes a
tacit invitation to the Court to “reweigh conflicting
evidence, make credibility determinations, [and] substitute
[its] judgment for that of the [ALJ].” Hancock v.
Astrue, 667 F.3d 470, 472 (4th Cir. 2012). As a matter
of law, the Court is obligated to decline this invitation,
and it finds the ALJ’s analysis of Plaintiff’s
subjective complaints about his limitations supported by
substantial evidence and an adequate explanation.
Id. Accordingly, any specific objection Plaintiff
has made as to the findings on his physical limitations will