United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division
DAVID C. NORTON, District Judge.
This matter is before the court on Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant's Report and Recommendation ("R&R") that this court affirm Acting Commissioner of Social Security Carolyn Colvin's decision denying plaintiff's application for supplemental security income ("SSI"). Plaintiff Terri Boyd ("Boyd") filed objections to the R&R. For the reasons set forth below, the court reverses the Commissioner's decision and remands for further administrative proceedings.
Unless otherwise noted, the following background is drawn from the R&R.
A. Procedural History
Boyd filed an application for SSI on October 26, 2010, alleging disability beginning on November 1, 2005. The Social Security Agency denied Boyd's claim initially and on reconsideration. Boyd requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"), and ALJ Alice Jordan held a hearing on May 8, 2012. The ALJ issued a decision on August 10, 2012, finding Boyd not disabled under the Social Security Act. Boyd requested Appeals Council review of the ALJ's decision. The Appeals Council declined to review the decision, rendering the ALJ's decision the final action of the Commissioner.
On November 22, 2013, Boyd filed this action seeking review of the ALJ's decision. The magistrate judge issued an R&R on December 4, 2014, recommending that this court affirm the ALJ's decision. Boyd filed objections to the R&R on December 22, 2014 and the Commissioner filed a response on January 8, 2015. The matter is now ripe for the court's review.
B. Medical History
Because Boyd's medical history is not relevant to the disposition of this case, the court dispenses with a lengthy recitation thereof and instead notes a few relevant facts. Boyd was born on March 30, 1980 and was 30 years old on the alleged onset date. Boyd's education level is unclear - she testified at the hearing that she completed ninth grade, but at other times has stated that she completed tenth grade or had even graduated from high school. Although Boyd testified to working as a babysitter, cashier, and telemarketer, the ALJ found that she did not have any past relevant work.
C. ALJ's Decision
The ALJ employed the statutorily-required five-step sequential evaluation process to determine whether Boyd was disabled from October 26, 2010 through August 10, 2012. The ALJ first determined that Boyd had not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the relevant time period. Tr. 14. At the second step, the ALJ found that Boyd suffered from the following severe impairments: obesity, sleep apnea, hypothyroidism, degenerative joint disease involving right knee, depression, and anxiety. Id . At step three, the ALJ determined that Boyd's impairments did not meet or equal one of the listed impairments in the Agency's Listing of Impairments ("the Listings"). Id. at 15; see 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpt. P, App'x 1. Before reaching the fourth step, the ALJ determined that Boyd had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b), specifically that she could: lift twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently; sit, stand, and walk for six hours each in an eight-hour workday; frequently climb and balance; and occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. Tr. 17. The ALJ further determined that Boyd must avoid concentrated exposure to hazards and should be limited to frequent public contact. Id . The ALJ found, at step four, that Boyd has no past relevant work. Tr. 21. Finally, at step five, the ALJ determined that considering Boyd's age, education, work experience and RFC, she could perform jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy, and therefore concluded that she was not disabled during the period at issue. Tr. 21-22.
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). A party's failure to object is accepted as agreement with the conclusions of the magistrate judge. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149-50 (1985). The recommendation of the magistrate judge carries no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination rests with this court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976).
Judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision regarding disability benefits "is limited to determining whether the findings of the [Commissioner] are supported by substantial evidence and whether the correct law was applied." Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). Substantial evidence is "more than a mere scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less than a preponderance." Id . (internal citations omitted). "[I]t is not within the province of a reviewing court to determine the weight of the evidence, nor is it the court's function to substitute its judgment for that of the [Commissioner] if his decision is supported by substantial evidence." Id . Where conflicting evidence "allows reasonable minds to differ as to ...