United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division
LYDIA J. BUCKLEY, Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON REPORT AND
Williams, United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on a Report & Recommendation
(R&R) by the Honorable Mark A. Roberts, United States
Magistrate Judge. (Doc. 17). Judge Roberts recommends that
the Court affirm the decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (the Commissioner) denying plaintiff Lydia J.
Buckley's (claimant) application for continuation of
Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security
Income (SSI) benefits under Titles II and XVIII of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381, et. seq. (Act).
(Id., at 1). Claimant filed a timely objection on
August 20, 2019. (Doc. 18). The Commissioner has not
responded and the deadline for a response has expired.
Judicial Review of the Commissioner's
Commissioner's decision must be affirmed “if it is
supported by substantial evidence on the record as a
whole.” Pelkey v. Barnhart, 433 F.3d 575, 577
(8th Cir. 2006); see 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
(“The findings of the Commissioner . . . as to any
fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be
conclusive . . ..”). “Substantial evidence is
less than a preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Lewis v. Barnhart, 353 F.3d 642, 645 (8th Cir.
2003). The Eighth Circuit explains the standard as
“something less than the weight of the evidence and
[that] allows for the possibility of drawing two inconsistent
conclusions, thus it embodies a zone of choice within which
the [Commissioner] may decide to grant or deny benefits
without being subject to reversal on appeal.”
Culbertson v. Shalala, 30 F.3d 934, 939 (8th Cir.
determine whether the Commissioner's decision meets this
standard, the court considers “all of the evidence that
was before the [administrative law judge (ALJ)], but [it
does] not re-weigh the evidence[.]” Vester v.
Barnhart, 416 F.3d 886, 889 (8th Cir. 2005). The court
considers both evidence which supports the Commissioner's
decision and evidence that detracts from it. Kluesner v.
Astrue, 607 F.3d 533, 536 (8th Cir. 2010). The court
“must search the record for evidence contradicting the
[Commissioner's] decision and give that evidence
appropriate weight when determining whether the overall
evidence in support is substantial.” Baldwin v.
Barnhart, 349 F.3d 549, 555 (8th Cir. 2003) (citation
evaluate the evidence in an appeal of a denial of benefits,
the court must apply a balancing test to assess any
contradictory evidence. Sobania v. Sec'y of Health
& Human Servs., 879 F.2d 441, 444 (8th Cir. 1989).
The court, however, does not “reweigh the evidence
presented to the ALJ, ” Baldwin, 349 F.3d at
555 (citation omitted), or “review the factual record
de novo.” Roe v. Chater, 92 F.3d 672, 675 (8th
Cir. 1996) (citation omitted). Instead, if, after reviewing
the evidence, the court “find[s] it possible to draw
two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those
positions represents the Commissioner's findings, [the
court] must affirm the [Commissioner's] denial of
benefits.” Kluesner, 607 F.3d at 536 (quoting
Finch v. Astrue, 547 F.3d 933, 935 (8th Cir. 2008)).
This is true even if the court “might have weighed the
evidence differently[.]” Culbertson, 30 F.3d
at 939 (citation omitted). The court may not reverse the
Commissioner's decision “merely because substantial
evidence would have supported an opposite decision.”
Baker v. Heckler, 730 F.2d 1147, 1150 (8th Cir.
1984); see also Goff v. Barnhart, 421 F.3d 785, 789
(8th Cir. 2005) (“[A]n administrative decision is not
subject to reversal simply because some evidence may support
the opposite conclusion.”).
Review of Report and Recommendation
district judge must review a magistrate judge's R&R
under the following standards:
Within fourteen days after being served with a copy, any
party may serve and file written objections to such proposed
findings and recommendations as provided by rules of court. A
judge of the court shall make a de novo determination of
those portions of the report or specified proposed findings
or recommendations to which objection is made. A judge of the
court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the
findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. The
judge may also receive further evidence or recommit the
matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also Fed. R. Civ. P.
72(b). Thus, when a party objects to any portion of an
R&R, the district judge must undertake a de novo review
of that portion.
portions of an R&R to which no objections have been made
must be reviewed under at least a clearly erroneous standard.
See, e.g., Grinder v. Gammon, 73 F.3d 793,
795 (8th Cir. 1996) (noting that when no objections are filed
“[the district court judge] would only have to review
the findings of the magistrate judge for clear
error.”). As the Supreme Court has explained,
“[a] finding is ‘clearly erroneous' when
although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court
on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm
conviction that a mistake has been committed.”
Anderson v. City of Bessemer City, 470 U.S.
564, 573 (1985) (quoting United States v. U.S. Gypsum
Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948)). A district judge may,
however, elect to review an R&R under a more-exacting
standard even if no objections are filed:
Any party that desires plenary consideration by the Article
III judge of any issue need only ask. Moreover, while the
statute does not require the judge to review an issue de
novo if no objections are filed, it does not preclude
further review by the district judge, sua sponte or
at the request of a party, under a de novo or any
Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 154 (1985).
applied for continuation of benefits. In 2013, the Social
Security Administration (SSA) found claimant had been
disabled since May 13, 2008. (AR 172-74). This is referred
to as the comparison point decision (CPD). (AR 41). At that
time, the ALJ noted “Medical improvement is expected
with appropriate treatment. Consequently, a continuing
disability review is recommended in 24 months.” (AR
August 10, 2016, the SSA notified claimant that it was
terminating her benefits on October 31, 2016, because it
concluded claimant was no longer disabled. (AR 135). Claimant
appealed that decision and ultimately requested a hearing
before an ALJ. (AR 199-204, 208). After a hearing, an ALJ
applied the familiar five-step evaluation and found there
were jobs in significant numbers in the national economy that
claimant could perform based on her residual functional
capacity (RFC) and, ...