United States District Court, District of South Carolina
Paige J. Gossett, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
This social security matter is before the court pursuant to Local Civil Rule 83.VII.02 DSC and 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) for final adjudication, with the consent of the parties, of the plaintiff’s petition for judicial review. The plaintiff, Yvonne Harrell, brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3) to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the defendant, Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”), denying her claims for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). Having carefully considered the parties’ submissions and the applicable law, the court concludes that the Commissioner’s decision should be remanded for further consideration as explained below.
SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY GENERALLY
Under 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(H)(I), as well as pursuant to the regulations formulated by the Commissioner, the plaintiff has the burden of proving disability, which is defined as an “inability to do 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.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.905(a); see also Blalock v. Richardson, 483 F.2d 773 (4th Cir. 1973). The regulations generally require the ALJ to consider, in sequence:
(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 that meets or equals the requirements of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (“the Listings”), and is thus presumptively disabled;
(4) whether the claimant can perform her past relevant work; and
(5) whether the claimant’s impairments prevent her from doing any other kind of work.
20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). If the ALJ can make a determination that a claimant is or is not disabled at any point in this process, review does not proceed to the next step. Id.
Under this analysis, a claimant has the initial burden of showing that she is unable to return to her past relevant work because of her impairments. Once the claimant establishes a prima facie case of disability, the burden shifts to the Commissioner. To satisfy this burden, the Commissioner must establish that the claimant has the residual functional capacity, considering the claimant’s age, education, work experience, and impairments, to perform alternative jobs that exist in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A)-(B); see also McLain v. Schweiker, 715 F.2d 866, 868-69 (4th Cir. 1983); Hall v. Harris, 658 F.2d 260, 264-65 (4th Cir. 1981); Wilson v. Califano, 617 F.2d 1050, 1053 (4th Cir. 1980). The Commissioner may carry this burden by obtaining testimony from a vocational expert. Grant v. Schweiker, 699 F.2d 189, 192 (4th Cir. 1983).
In September 2009, Harrell applied for SSI, alleging disability beginning April 11, 2009. Harrell’s application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, and she requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). A hearing was held on March 28, 2012 at which Harrell, who was represented by Harry F. Smithson, Esquire, appeared and testified. After hearing testimony from Harrell’s mother and a vocational expert, the ALJ issued a decision on June 4, 2012 denying benefits and concluding that Harrell was not disabled. (Tr. 12-20.)
Harrell was born in 1965 and was forty-three years old at the time her application was filed. (Tr. 33.) She has a high school education and past relevant work experience as a child care worker. (Tr. 174, 180.) Harrell alleged disability due to a stroke, blurred vision, limited ...