United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division
DAVID C. NORTON, District Judge.
This matter is before the court on United States Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett's report and recommendation ("R&R") that the court reverse and remand the Acting Commissioner of Social Security Carolyn W. Colvin's decision to deny claimant Scott McKinley Parker's ("Parker") application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). The Commissioner filed objections to the R&R. For the reasons set forth below, the court adopts the R&R and remands the case for further administrative proceedings.
Unless otherwise noted, the following background is drawn from the R&R.
A. Procedural History
Parker filed an application for DIB in October 2010, alleging that he had been disabled since June 1, 2001. The Social Security Administration ("the Agency") denied Parker's application both initially and on reconsideration. Parker requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ") and ALJ Brendan F. Flanagan presided over a hearing held on June 30, 2011. At this hearing, Parker amended his alleged onset date to August 2, 2010. In a decision issued on August 26, 2011, the ALJ determined that Parker was not disabled. This decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied further review on June 13, 2012.
Parker filed this action for judicial review on January 15, 2013. On July 10, 2013, he filed a brief requesting that the Commissioner's decision be reversed and the case remanded to the Agency for further consideration. On August 22, 2013, the Commissioner filed a brief contending that her decision should be upheld. On May 22, 2014, the magistrate judge issued the R&R, recommending that the Commissioner's decision be reversed and remanded for further proceedings pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Commissioner objected to portions of the R&R on June 9, 2014 and Parker replied to those objections on June 13, 2014. This matter has been fully briefed and is now ripe for the court's review.
B. Parker's Medical History
Because a comprehensive description of Parker's medical history is not particularly helpful to the resolution of this case, the court here recites only a few relevant facts. Parker was forty years old on his amended alleged disability onset date. He has a high school education and past relevant work experience as a booking officer, a customer service representative, an account credit clerk, and an automobile salesperson. In his application, Parker alleged disability due to high blood pressure, bipolar disorder, and social anxiety.
C. ALJ's Findings
The Social Security Act defines "disability" as the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505. The Social Security regulations establish a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine whether a claimant is disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. Under this process, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant: (1) is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) has a severe impairment; (3) has an impairment which equals an illness contained in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpt. P, App'x 1, which warrants a finding of disability without considering vocational factors; (4) if not, whether the claimant has an impairment which prevents him or her from performing past relevant work; and (5) if so, whether the claimant is able to perform other work considering both his or her remaining physical and mental capacities (defined by his or her residual functional capacity) and his or her vocational capabilities (age, education, and past work experience) to adjust to a new job. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520; Hall v. Harris , 658 F.2d 260, 264-65 (4th Cir. 1981). The applicant bears the burden of proof during the first four steps of the inquiry, while the burden shifts to the Commissioner for the final step. Pass v. Chater , 65 F.3d 1200, 1203 (4th Cir. 1995) (citing Hunter v. Sullivan , 993 F.2d 31, 35 (4th Cir. 1992)).
To determine whether Parker was disabled from August 2, 2010 through the date of his decision, the ALJ employed the statutorily-required five-step sequential evaluation process. At step one, the ALJ found that Parker did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the period at issue. Tr. 28. At step two, the ALJ found that Parker suffered from the following severe impairments: bipolar disorder, panic disorder with agoraphobia, obstructive sleep apnea, and fibromyalgia. Id . At step three, the ALJ found that Parker's impairments or combination thereof did not meet or medically equal one of the impairments listed in the Agency's Listing of Impairments. Tr. 30. Before reaching the fourth step, the ALJ determined that Parker retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work with several restrictions. Tr. 30-31. Specifically, the ALJ limited Parker to "simple, routine, repetitive tasks with no more than frequent interaction with others" and found he could "concentrate and persist for two hour segments." Tr. 31. The ALJ further determined Parker "is to avoid more than frequent balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling, or climbing of stairs or ramps, " as well as "all exposure to extremes of temperature, humidity, irritants or climbing of ropes, ladders or scaffolds." Tr. 30. At step four, the ALJ found that Parker was unable to perform any of his past relevant work. Tr. 32. Finally, at the fifth step, the ALJ found that Parker could perform jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy and concluded, therefore, that he was not disabled during the period at issue. Tr. 33.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
This court is charged with conducting a de novo review of any portion of the magistrate judge's R&R to which specific, written objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). This court is not required to review the factual findings and legal conclusions of the magistrate judge to which the parties have not objected. See id. The recommendation of the magistrate judge carries no presumptive weight, and the ...