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Jackson v. Berryhill

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

August 24, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, DEFENDANT



         BEFORE THE COURT is the [12] Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge John C. Gargiulo entered in this cause on July 10, 2018. Magistrate Judge Gargiulo recommends that the Court affirm the decision of the Commissioner to deny Plaintiff Jackson's application for disability benefits. Jackson has filed an objection to the Recommendation, and the Commissioner filed a response. After a thorough review of the administrative record, the pleadings submitted by the parties, and the applicable law, the Court adopts the Report and Recommendation and affirms the decision of the Commissioner.


         Al Jerome Jackson filed an application for Social Security disability benefits in 2014, alleging he became disabled on March 22, 2010 at the age of forty-two from the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, lower back pain, and diminished hearing in his right ear. His claim was conclusively denied by the Commission on August 23, 2016.

         Jackson served in the military during Operation Desert Storm. After his military service ended in 2010, he worked at the VA Medical Center in Biloxi, Mississippi as a material handler, an escort, and a laundry worker. A vocational expert testified that Jackson could still work as a laundry worker, and further identified dish washer, salvage laborer, and store laborer as other jobs available in the national economy that Jackson could perform.

         Standard of Review

         In an appeal from a decision by the Commissioner, the Court's review is limited to (1) whether the Commissioner applied the proper legal standard; and (2) whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence. Waters v. Barnhart, 276 F.3d 716, 718 (5th Cir. 2002).

Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a responsible mind might accept to support a conclusion. It is more than a mere scintilla and less than a preponderance. A finding of no substantial evidence is appropriate only if no credible evidentiary choices or medical findings support the decision. In applying this standard, we may not re-weigh the evidence or substitute our judgment for that of the Commissioner.

Boyd v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 698, 704 (5th Cir. 2001) (quoting Harris v. Apfel, 209 F.3d 413, 417 (5th Cir. 2000)). It is for the Commissioner to weigh the evidence and to resolve any conflicts. Anthony v. Sullivan, 954 F.2d 289, 295 (5th Cir. 1992). If supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's findings are conclusive and must be affirmed. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971).

         The Court referred the case to the Magistrate Judge for a report and recommendation. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). Any party adversely affected by the recommendation issued may file written objections within fourteen (14) days of being served with the report and recommendation. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). A party that files a timely objection is entitled to a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which specific objection is made. United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 673 (1980). The objections must specifically identify those findings or recommendations to which objections are being made. The district court need not consider frivolous, conclusive, or general objections. Battle v. U.S. Parole Comm'n, 834 F.2d 419, 421 (5th Cir. 1987). Moreover, where the objections are repetitive of the arguments already made to the Magistrate Judge, a de novo review is unwarranted. Koetting v. Thompson, 995 F.2d 37, 40 (5th Cir. 1993). Instead, the report and recommendation is reviewed by the district judge for clear error. Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315-16 (4th Cir. 2005); see also Camardo v. Gen. Motors Hourly Rate Emp.'s Pension Plan, 806 F.Supp. 380, 382 (W.D.N.Y. 1992) (“It is improper for an objecting party to . . . submit[ ] papers to a district court which are nothing more than a rehashing of the same arguments and positions taken in the original papers submitted to the Magistrate Judge. Clearly, parties are not to be afforded a second bite at the apple when they file objections to a R & R.”). A court is not required to make new findings of fact independent of those made by the Magistrate Judge. Warren v. Miles, 230 F.3d 688, 694-95 (5th Cir. 2000). Nor is a court required to reiterate the findings and conclusions of the Magistrate Judge. Koetting, 995 F.2d at 40.


         1. The Commissioner's Review

         In evaluating a disability claim, the Commissioner conducts a five-step sequential analysis to determine whether

(1) the claimant is presently working; (2) the claimant has a severe impairment; (3) the impairment meets or equals an impairment listed in appendix 1 of the social security regulations; (4) the impairment prevents the claimant from doing past relevant work; and (5) the impairment ...

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