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Christmas v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division

September 26, 2014

Thomas Franklin Christmas, Plaintiff,


THOMAS E. ROGERS III, Magistrate Judge.

This is an action brought pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. Section 405(g), to obtain judicial review of a "final decision" of the Commissioner of Social Security, denying Plaintiff's claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The only issues before the Court are whether the findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence and whether proper legal standards have been applied. This case is before the court pursuant to Local Rule 83.VII.02, D.S.C., concerning the disposition of Social Security cases in this District on consent of the parties. 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).


On February 5, 2010, the Plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI. He alleges disability beginning January 25, 2010. A hearing was held by an administrative law judge ("ALJ") on January 12, 2012. The ALJ found in a decision dated February 17, 2012, that Plaintiff was not disabled. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Plaintiff filed this action on May 21, 2013, in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina.


Plaintiff was born on May 11, 1965, and was 44 years old on the alleged onset date. (Tr. 54). Plaintiff has a limited education and past relevant work experience as an assistant manager. (Tr. 54). Plaintiff alleges disability due to avascular necrosis in his hips, his HIV positive status, and anxiety. (Tr. 50-51).


In the decision of February 17, 2012, the ALJ found the following:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2014.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 25, 2010, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571, et seq., and 416.971 et seq. ).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: HIV and bilateral avascular necrosis (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform no lifting or carrying more than 10 pounds occasionally and 1-2 pounds frequently with no prolonged standing or walking for more than 2 hours a day; no standing or walking on wet or uneven surfaces; occasional stooping, kneeling or crouching; no operation of foot controls; no work around excessive vibration; no work around hazardous machinery and no operation of automotive equipment.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 an 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on May 11, 1965 and was 44 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-44, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).
8. The claimant has a limited education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964).
9. There are transferable job skills from the claimant's past work as an assistant manager.
10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 404.1569, 404.1569(a), 416.969, and 416.969(a).
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from January 25, 2010, through date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).

(Tr. 48-55).

The Commissioner argues that the ALJ's decision was based on substantial evidence and that it is free from harmful legal error. Under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405 (g), the scope of review of the Commissioner's final decision is limited to: (1) whether the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence and (2) whether the legal conclusions of the Commissioner are correct under controlling law. Myers v. Califano, 611 F.2d 980, 982-83 (4th Cir. 1988); Richardson v. Califano, 574 F.2d 802 (4th Cir. 1978). "Substantial evidence" is that evidence which a "reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390-401, (1971). Such evidence is generally equated with the amount of evidence necessary to avoid a directed verdict. Shively v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 987, 989 (4th Cir. 1984). The court's scope of review is specific and narrow. It does not conduct a de novo review of the evidence, and the Commissioner's finding of non-disability is to be upheld, even if the court disagrees, so long as it is supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405 (g) (1982); Blalock v. Richardson, 483 F.2d 773, 775 (4th Cir. 1972).

The general procedure of a Social Security disability inquiry is well established. Five questions are to be asked sequentially during the course of a disability determination. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 1520a (1988). An ALJ must consider (1) whether the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment, (3) whether the claimant has an impairment which equals a condition contained within the Social Security Administration's official listing of impairments (at 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpart P, App. 1), (4) whether the claimant ...

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