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Whitfield v. Colvin

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

January 12, 2015

Wendy D. Whitfield, Plaintiff,
Carolyn W. Colvin, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant

For Wendy D Whitfield, Plaintiff: Jeffery Lee Sabel, LEAD ATTORNEY, Jeffery L Sabel Law Office, Goose Creek, SC.

For Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant: Marshall Prince, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorneys Office, Columbia, SC.


Kevin F. McDonald, United States Magistrate Judge.

This case is before the court for a report and recommendation pursuant to Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(a) (D.S.C.), concerning the disposition of Social Security cases in this District, and Title 28, United States Code, Section 636(b)(1)(B).[1]

The plaintiff brought this action pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended (42 U.S.C. 405(g)) to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her claim for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act.


The plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits (" DIB") on May 18, 2010, alleging that she became unable to work on March 12, 2010. The application was denied initially and on reconsideration by the Social Security Administration. On July 6, 2011, the plaintiff requested a hearing. The administrative law judge (" ALJ"), before whom the plaintiff and Pearl Brown, an impartial vocational expert, appeared on May 9, 2012 (Tr. 32), considered the case de novo and, on May 21, 2012, found that the plaintiff was not under a disability as defined in the Social Security Act, as amended. The ALJ's finding became the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security when the Appeals Council denied the plaintiff's request for review on September 4, 2012. The plaintiff then filed this action for judicial review.

In making the determination that the plaintiff is not entitled to benefits, the Commissioner has adopted the following findings of the ALJ:

(1) The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through June 30, 2015.
(2) The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 12, 2010, the alleged onset date (20 C.F.R. § § 404.1571 et seq ).
(3) The claimant has the following severe impairment: disorders of the back and obesity (20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c)).
(4) The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. § § 404.1520(d), 404.1525, and 404.1526).
(5) After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a) except the claimant can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She is capable of frequent pushing and pulling activities. The claimant can kneel and balance frequently, but can only occasionally stoop, crouch, and crawl. The claimant must be allowed to use a hand-held assistive device for prolonged ambulation and allowed to sit/stand at her workstation as needed to relieve her pain symptoms. The claimant must avoid concentrated exposure to extreme heat, cold, or humidity, and she must avoid even moderate exposure to hazards such as unprotected heights or dangerous moving machinery.
(6) The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 C.F.R. § 404.1565).
(7) The claimant was born on August 9, 1960, and was 49 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 45-49, on the alleged disability onset date (20 C.F.R. § 404.1563).
(8) The claimant has a limited education and is able to communicate in English (20 C.F.R. § 404.1564).
(9) The claimant has acquired work skills from past relevant work (20 C.F.R. § 404-1568).).
(10) Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, the claimant has acquired work skills from past relevant work that are transferable to other occupations with jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy (20 C.F.R. § § 404.1569, 404.1569(a) and 404.1568(d)).
(11) The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from March 12, 2010, through the date of this decision (20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(g)).

The only issues before the court are whether proper legal standards were applied and whether the final decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence.


The Social Security Act provides that disability benefits shall be available to those persons insured for benefits, who are not of retirement age, who properly apply, and who are under a " disability." 42 U.S.C. § 423(a). " Disability" is defined in 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A) 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 at least 12 consecutive months.

To facilitate a uniform and efficient processing of disability claims, the Social Security Act has by regulation reduced the statutory definition of " disability" to a series of five sequential questions. An examiner must consider whether the claimant (1) is engaged in substantial gainful activity, (2) has a severe impairment, (3) has an impairment that equals an illness contained in the Social Security Administration's Official Listings of Impairments found at 20 C.F.R. Part 4, Subpart P, App. 1, (4) has an impairment that prevents past relevant work, and (5) has an impairment that prevents him from doing substantial ...

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