United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
Shequita L. Malachi, Plaintiff,
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE
GORDON BAKER, Magistrate Judge.
case is before the Court for a report and recommendation
pursuant to Local 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).
Plaintiff, Shequita L. Malachi, brought this action pursuant
to Section 1631(c)(3) of the Social Security Act, as amended
(42 U.S.C. Â§ 1383(c)(3), to obtain judicial review of a final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("the
Commissioner") regarding her claim for supplemental
security income benefits ("SSI") under Title XVI of
the Social Security Act, as amended (the "Act").
FACTS AND ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS
Plaintiff was 32 years old on the date she applied for
supplemental security income. (R. at 19.) She alleged
disability beginning on April 1, 2010, due to hypertension,
right knee arthritis, bronchitis, obesity, anxiety, and
bipolar disorder. (R. at 9, 11.) Plaintiff has an
associate's degree and past relevant work as a cashier,
assembler, and UPC labeler. (R. at 33, 59-60.
Plaintiff filed an application for SSI on September 20, 2010.
(R. at 9.) Her application was denied initially and on
reconsideration. (R. at 9.) After a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on February 14, 2013, the ALJ
issued an unfavorable decision on March 27, 2013. (R. at
9-20.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review, (R. at 1-3), making the ALJ's decision the
Commissioner's final decision for purposes of judicial
making the determination that the Plaintiff is not entitled
to benefits, the Commissioner has adopted the following
findings of the ALJ:
(1) The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since September 20, 2010, the application date (20
CFR 416.971 et seq. ).
(2) The claimant has the following severe impairments:
hypertension, right knee arthritis, bronchitis, obesity,
anxiety, and bipolar disorder (20 CFR 416.920(c)).
(3) 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 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
(4) After careful consideration of the entire record, I find
that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform a range of sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR
416.967(a) in that she can lift and carry up to twenty pounds
occasionally and ten pounds frequently; stand and/or walk for
about two hours in a workday; and sit for about six hours in
a workday. She must be allowed to alternate sitting and
standing at the workstation at intervals of thirty to
forty-five minutes. She can occasionally balance, stoop,
kneel, crouch, and climb stairs or ramps but never crawl or
climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She can only occasionally
operate foot pedals or other controls with her right lower
extremity. She must avoid concentrated exposure to extremes
of temperature and humidity and concentrated exposure to
dust, fumes, gases, odors, and other respiratory irritants.
She must avoid hazards such as unprotected heights and
dangerous machinery. Due to her mental impairments, she is
further restricted to unskilled work involving no more than
occasional interaction with the public.
(5) The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work
as a UPC labeler. This work does not require the performance
of work-related activities precluded by the claimant's
residual functional capacity (20 CFR 416.965).
(6) The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, since September 20, 2010, the
date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.920(f)).
provides that SSI disability benefits shall be available for
aged, blind, or disabled persons who have income and
resources below a specific amount. 42 U.S.C. Â§ 1381 et.
seq.; 20 C.F.R. Â§ 416.110. "Disability" is
defined in the Act 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
twelve months." 42 U.S.C. Â§ 1382c(a)(3)(A).
facilitate a uniform and efficient processing of disability
claims, the 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 which equals
an illness contained in the Administration's official
Listing of Impairments found at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, Appendix 1; (4) has an impairment which prevents past
relevant work; and (5) has an impairment which prevents him
from doing substantial gainful employment. See 20
C.F.R. Â§ 416.920. If an individual is found not disabled at
any step, further inquiry is unnecessary. Id .; see
also Hall v. Harris, 658 F.2d 260, 264 (4th
Cir. 1981). The plaintiff "bears the burden of
production and proof during the first four steps of the
inquiry." Pass v. Chater, 65 F.3d 1200, 1203
(4th Cir. 1995). If the plaintiff "is able to carry this
burden through the fourth step, the burden shifts to the
Secretary in the fifth step to show that other work is
available in the national economy which the claimant could
perform." Id. at 1203.
scope of judicial review by the federal courts in disability
cases is "limited to determining whether the findings of
the Secretary are supported by substantial evidence and
whether the correct law was applied." Hays v.
Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990); see
also Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389
(1971). Consequently, the Act precludes a de novo
review of the evidence and requires the court to uphold the
Commissioner's decision as long as it is supported by
substantial evidence. Pyles v. Bowen, 849 F.2d 846,
848 (4th Cir. 1988) ( citing 42 U.S.C. Â§
405(g); Smith v. Schweiker, 795 F.2d 343,
345 (4th Cir. 1986)). The phrase "substantial
evidence" is defined as:
such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion. Substantial evidence
consists of more than a mere scintilla of evidence but may be
less than a preponderance.
Smith v. Chater, 99 F.3d 635, 637-38 (4th Cir. 1996)
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
it is the duty of this Court to give careful scrutiny to the
whole record to assure that there is a sound foundation for
the Commissioner's findings, and that his conclusion is
rational. Thomas v. Celebrezze, 331 F.2d 541, 543
(4th Cir. 1964). If there is substantial evidence to support
the decision of the Commissioner, that decision must be
affirmed. Blalock v. Richardson, 483 F.2d 773, 775
(4th Cir. 1972).
Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred in failing to find her
disabled. More specifically, the Plaintiff alleges that the
ALJ erred in failing to comply with Social Security Ruling
82-62 because the ALJ failed to provide "specific
findings or analysis regarding the mental demands" of
Plaintiff's past relevant work." (Dkt. No. 13 at 23
of 30.) Plaintiff also contends the ALJ erred in failing
"to formulate" a residual functional capacity
("RFC") "assessment that encompassed all of
the Plaintiff's impairments and limitations" and
failed to evaluate Plaintiff's obesity pursuant to Social
Security Ruling 02-01p. (Dkt. No. 13 at 26-27 of 30.)
Finally, Plaintiff alleges the ALJ erred in "fail[ing]
to follow [the] requirements of ...