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Reeves v. Berryhill

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 20, 2018

CHARLES W. REEVES, Plaintiff
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1] Defendant

          ORDER

          Christopher C. Conner, Chief Judge

         AND NOW this 20th day of July 2018 upon consideration of the report (Doc 17) of Magistrate Judge Joseph F Saporito Jr recommending that the court grant the appeal (Doc 1) of Charles W Reeves (“Reeves”) from the decision of the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) denying his application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits and remand this matter for further proceedings in accordance with sentence four of 42 USC § 405(g) wherein Judge Saporito opines that the decision of the ALJ is not “supported by substantial evidence ” 42 USC § 405(g) because the ALJ “failed to meaningfully discuss the effects of Reeves' obesity in relation to his other impairments ” (Doc 17 at 29) and the court noting that the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) filed objections (Doc 18) to the report and that Reeves failed to file a responsive brief as mandated by the Local Rules of Court see Local Rules of Court 722 723 and following de novo review of the contested portion of the report see Behar v Pa Dep't of Transp 791 F.Supp.2d 383 389 (MD Pa 2011) (citing 28 USC § 636(b)(1)(C); Sample v Diecks 885 F.2d 1099 1106 n3 (3d Cir 1989))[2] the court observing that the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Diaz v Commissioner of Social Security 577 F.3d 500 (3d Cir 2009) held that when a claimant identifies obesity as a severe impairment or the ALJ independently finds a claimant's obesity to be a severe impairment the ALJ must “meaningfully consider” the effect of the claimant's obesity individually and in combination with other impairments in conducting the residual functional capacity assessment and at every step of the disability determination thereafter Id. at 503-04 but that remand for further consideration of a claimant's obesity by the ALJ generally is not required when the record reveals that “it would not affect the outcome of the case ” Rutherford v Barnhart 399 F.3d 546 553-54 (3d Cir 2005) (citation omitted) and the court further observing that a claimant's “generalized” assertion that obesity may impact the claimant's functioning offered without record support or any elaboration of particular resulting limitations “is not enough” for remand see id; see also Neff v Astrue 875 F.Supp.2d 411 422-23 (D Del 2012) (citing Diaz 577 F.3d at 504) “particularly when ” as here “the administrative record indicates clearly that the AL J relied on the voluminous medical evidence as a basis for his findings regarding [the claimant's] limitations and impairments ” Rutherford 399 F.3d at 553 and that applying both Rutherford and Diaz courts routinely reject cursory requests for remand based on a generalized assertion that the AL J failed to adequately account for the claimant's obesity when the claimant “fails to argue that obesity actually impacted [their] job performance ” Neff 875 F.Supp.2d at 423 or fails to “specify any particular records or other evidence that were purportedly omitted by the ALJ ” Brown v Astrue 789 F.Supp.2d 470 484 (D Del 2011) and it appearing that Reeves implicitly invoked Diaz before the magistrate judge asserting cursorily that because the ALJ identified obesity as a severe impairment but did not explicitly consider whether related limitations exist remand is required for further development of the record (see Doc 12 at 17-18) but that Reeves failed to identify any evidence in the record suggesting that his obesity independently or in combination with other impairments impacts his functional capacity (see id; Doc 15 at 3); see also Neff 875 F.Supp.2d at 422-23; Brown 789 F.Supp.2d at 483-84 and that Reeves also failed to respond to the Commissioner's objection highlighting this deficiency and the court finding following independent review of the record that the ALJ's express acknowledgment of Reeves' obesity (see Tr at 15) his determination that Reeves' obesity did not meet or equal a listing (see Id. at 16) his multiple observations of Reeves' height and weight (see Id. at 19) his comprehensive review of the medical and other evidence of record (see Id. at 18-25) and his thorough assessment of Reeves' functional capacity (see id) are sufficient to comply with Diaz and satisfy this court that the ALJ “did not ignore” Reeves' obesity see Neff 875 F.Supp.2d at 423 and further finding that Reeves to date fails to identify any record evidence credible or otherwise substantiating his generalized and speculative contention that his weight “could affect his ability to sit stand walk lift and carry ” (Doc 12 at 17-18 (emphasis added)) and the court thus concluding that the ALJ's decision is “supported by substantial evidence ” 42 USC § 405(g); Fargnoli v Massanari 247 F.3d 34 38 (3d Cir 2001) it is hereby ORDERED that:

1 The report (Doc 17) of Magistrate Judge Saporito is ADOPTED to the extent it opines (1) that the ALJ properly weighed the opinion evidence of record; (2) that Reeves fails to adequately develop his arguments concerning whether his sleep apnea meets or equals a listing and whether the residual functional capacity assessment accounts for limitations in concentration persistence and pace; and (3) that the ALJ's credibility assessment is supported by substantial evidence
2 We decline to adopt the report (Doc 17) to the extent it opines that the ALJ failed to adequately address Reeves' obesity and to the extent it concludes that the ALJ's disability determination therefore is not supported by substantial evidence
3 The Commissioner's decision denying Reeves' application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits is AFFIRMED.
4. The Clerk of Court shall enter judgment in favor of the Commissioner and against Reeves as set forth in paragraph 3.
5. The Clerk of Court is directed to CLOSE this case.

---------

Notes:

[1] Due to the Federal Vacancies Reform Act 5 USC § 3345 et seq former acting Commissioner of Social Security Nancy A Berryhill is currently presiding as the Deputy Commissioner for Operations of the Social Security Administration For consistency purposes however we continue to refer to Ms Berryhill as “the Commissioner”

[2] Magistrate Judge Saporito also recommends that the court find (1) that the ALJ properly weighed the opinion evidence of record; (2) that Reeves failed to adequately develop his arguments concerning whether his sleep apnea meets or equals a listing and whether the residual functional capacity assessment adequately accounts for his alleged limitations in concentration persistence and pace; and (3) that the ALJ's credibility assessment is supported by substantial evidence (Doc 17 at 23-26 29-36) Reeves has not objected to these recommendations Failure of a party to timely object to a magistrate judge's conclusions “may result in forfeiture of de novo review at the district court level” Nara v Frank488 F.3d 187 194 (3d Cir 2007) (citing Henderson v Carlson,812 F.2d 874, 878-79 (3d Cir 1987)) As a matter of good practice a district court should “afford some level of review to dispositive legal issues raised by the report ” Henderson, 812 F.2d at 878; see also Taylor v Comm'r of Soc Sec83 F.Supp.3d 625, 626 (MD Pa 2015) (citation omitted) in order to ...


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