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Wilkinson v. Colvin

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

January 5, 2017




         BEFORE THE COURT is the Objection [15] filed by Plaintiff Cecelia Wilkinson (“Plaintiff”) to the Report and Recommendation [13] of United States Magistrate Judge Michael T. Parker. After reviewing the record and relevant legal authority, the Court finds that Plaintiff's Objection [15] should be overruled, that the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation [13] should be adopted in its entirety as the finding of the Court, and that the decision of Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant” or “Commissioner”), denying disability benefits should be affirmed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born in 1964, has a high school education, and has relevant work experience as a slot machine technician, casino security personnel, and restaurant cook. Pl.'s Br. [11] at 2. She has a history of back pain and lumbar disc displacement. Id. at 3. Plaintiff alleges disability due to a dehydrated spinal disc at ¶ 1, bulging discs at ¶ 3 and L5, and arthritis at ¶ 5-S1. Id. at 2.

         On April 16, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for Social Security disability insurance benefits, claiming that her disability began on September 12, 2012. Report and Recommendation [13] at 1. The Social Security Administration initially denied Plaintiff's application on June 10, 2013, and thereafter upheld the decision upon a request for reconsideration on June 17, 2013. R. [10] at 76-77. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) to review the decision, and on July 10, 2014, Plaintiff and a vocational expert testified at a video hearing before the ALJ. Id. at 38-68. The ALJ issued a decision on September 26, 2014, concluding from the entire record that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform light work and is not disabled. Id. at 22-33.

         Plaintiff sought review of the ALJ's decision before the Appeals Council, which denied the request for review on November 4, 2015. Id. at 4-7. Plaintiff filed this civil action on December 18, 2015, seeking a reversal of the decision to deny disability benefits, an order granting disability benefits commencing on September 12, 2012, and an award of attorneys' fees. Compl. [1] at 3.

         Following briefing by the parties, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation [13] that the decision of the Commissioner should be affirmed. Plaintiff filed an Objection [15], and Defendant filed a Response [16] urging the Court to adopt the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation [13] and affirm the denial of disability benefits.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of Review

         Because Plaintiff has filed an Objection [15] to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation [13], 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) (a party filing a written objection 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 decision, the Court “considers only whether the Commissioner applied the proper legal standards and whether substantial evidence in the record supports [the] decision.” Jones v. Astrue, 691 F.3d 730, 733 (5th Cir. 2012).

         “Substantial evidence is that which is relevant and sufficient for a reasonable mind to accept as adequate to support a conclusion; it must be more than a scintilla, but it need not be a preponderance.” Anthony v. Sullivan, 954 F.2d 289, 295 (5th Cir. 1992). “A finding of no substantial evidence is appropriate only if no credible evidentiary choices or medical findings support the decision.” Harris v. Apfel, 209 F.3d 413, 417 (5th Cir. 2000). Under this standard, a court cannot “re-weigh the evidence or substitute [its] judgment for that of the Commissioner.” Id.

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

         B. Standard for Entitlement to ...

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