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Walton v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division

March 9, 2015

TAMMY E. WALTON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OVERRULING PLAINTIFF'S [12] OBJECTIONS, ADOPTING MAGISTRATE'S [11] PROPOSED FINDINGS OF FACT AND RECOMMENDATION, AND AFFIRMING DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER

HALIL SULEYMAN OZERDEN, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Tammy E. Walton's Objections [12] to Magistrate Judge Robert H. Walker's Proposed Findings of Fact and Recommendation [11]. The Magistrate Judge reviewed Walton's Complaint [1] and Brief [9] which asks the Court to reverse the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security or remand the case for further hearing. Compl. [1] at 2; Br. [9] at 8. The Magistrate Judge recommended that the Commissioner's decision denying Walton's claim for benefits be affirmed. Proposed Findings of Fact and Recommendation [11] at 7.

Walton has filed Objections [12] to the Proposed Findings of Fact and Recommendation [11], and Defendant Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin has filed a Response [13] to Walton's Objections [12]. After review of the record and relevant law, the Court, being fully advised in the premises, finds that Walton's Objections [12] should be overruled, that the Magistrate Judge's Proposed Findings of Fact and Recommendation [11] should be adopted in their entirety as the finding of this Court, and that the Commissioner's decision should be affirmed.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Standard of Review

Because Plaintiff Tammy E. Walton ("Claimant" or "Walton") has filed Objections to the Magistrate's Proposed Findings of Fact and Recommendation, this Court is required to "make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also Longmire v. Gust, 921 F.2d 620, 623 (5th Cir. 1991) (party filing written objections is "entitled to a de novo review by an Article III Judge as to those issues to which an objection is made"). In reviewing the Commissioner's decision, a federal court considers only whether the Commissioner applied the proper legal standards and whether substantial evidence in the record supports her decision. Jones v. Astrue, 691 F.3d 730, 733 (5th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted).

Substantial evidence must be more than a scintilla, but it need not be a preponderance. Leggett v. Chater, 67 F.3d 558, 564 (5th Cir. 1995) (citation omitted). "A finding of no substantial evidence is appropriate only if no credible evidentiary choices or medical findings support the decision." Boyd v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 698, 704 (5th Cir. 2001) (quotation omitted). Under this standard, a court cannot "re-weigh the evidence or substitute [its] judgment for that of the Commissioner." Id. (quotation omitted).

To the extent that a plaintiff does not object to portions of a magistrate judge's proposed findings of fact and recommendation, a court need not conduct a de novo review of it. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In such cases, a court need only review the proposed findings of fact and recommendation and determine whether they are either clearly erroneous or contrary to law. United States v. Wilson, 864 F.2d 1219, 1221 (5th Cir. 1989).

B. Standard for Entitlement to Social Security Benefits

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has explained that [i]n order to qualify for... [Supplemental Security Income], a claimant must suffer from a disability. See 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The Social Security Act defines a disability as a "medically determinable physical or mental impairment lasting at least twelve months that prevents the claimant from engaging in substantial gainful activity." Masterson v. Barnhart, 309 F.3d 267, 271 (5th Cir. 2002); see also 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).

Copeland v. Colvin, 771 F.3d 920, 923 (5th Cir. 2014).

"The Commissioner typically uses a sequential five-step process to determine whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act." Id. (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520; see also Waters v. Barnhart, 276 F.3d 716, 718 (5th Cir. 2002)). The Fifth Circuit has described the five-step analysis as follows:

First, the claimant must not be presently working. Second, a claimant must establish that he has an impairment or combination of impairments which significantly limit his physical or mental ability to do basic work activities. Third, to secure a finding of disability without consideration of age, education, and work experience, a claimant must establish that his impairment meets or equals an impairment in the appendix to the regulations. Fourth, a claimant must establish that his impairment prevents him from doing past relevant work. Finally, the burden shifts to the Secretary to establish that the claimant can perform the relevant work. If the Secretary meets this burden, the claimant must then prove that he cannot in fact perform the work suggested.

Id. (quotation omitted).

C. The Administrative Law Judge's Decision

Claimant applied for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") on November 29, 2010, claiming that she became disabled on November 1, 2009. R. [8] at 102, 127. Claimant subsequently amended her onset date to November 29, 2010. Id. at 67. Claimant's application was denied on February 24, 2011, and again on reconsideration on May 20, 2011. Id. at 102-12. Claimant requested a ...


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