United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division
REPORT OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE
F. McDONALD, Magistrate Judge.
case is before the court for a report and recommendation
pursuant to Local Civil 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
plaintiff brought this action pursuant to Sections 205(g) and
1631(c)(3) of the Social Security Act, as amended (42 U.S.C.
405(g) and 1383(c)(3)), to obtain judicial review of a final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his
claims for disability insurance benefits and supplemental
security income benefits under Titles II and XVI of the
Social Security Act.
plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance
benefits on September 2, 2011. On the same date, he also
protectively filed a Title XVI application for supplemental
security income. In both applications, he alleged disability
beginning August 1, 2011. The applications were denied
initially and on reconsideration by the Social Security
Administration. The plaintiff requested a hearing. An initial
hearing was held on March 20, 2013, at which the plaintiff,
his attorney, and an impartial vocational expert, Jacqueline
Merritt, appeared. A supplemental hearing was held on October
16, 2013, at which the plaintiff, his attorney, and an
impartial vocational expert, Carey A. Washington, also
appeared. The administrative law judge ("ALJ")
considered the case de novo and on November 8, 2013,
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 review on
December 24, 2014.
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. Â§ 423(a).
"Disability" is defined in 42 U.S.C. Â§ 423(d)(1)(A)
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
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 gainful employment.
20 C.F.R. Â§Â§ 404.1520, 416.920. If an individual is found not
disabled at any step, further inquiry is unnecessary.
Id. Â§Â§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4).
plaintiff is not disabled within the meaning of the Act if he
can return to past relevant work as it is customarily
performed in the economy or as the claimant actually
performed the work. SSR 82-62, 1982 WL 31386, at *3. The
plaintiff bears the burden of establishing his inability to
work within the meaning of the Act. 42 U.S.C. Â§ 423(d)(5). He
must make a prima facie showing of disability by showing he
is unable to return to his past relevant work. Grant v.
Schweiker, 699 F.2d 189, 191 (4th Cir. 1983).
individual has established an inability to return to his past
relevant work, the burden is on the Commissioner to come
forward with evidence that the plaintiff can perform
alternative work and that such work exists in the regional
economy. The Commissioner may carry the burden of
demonstrating the existence of jobs available in the national
economy which the plaintiff can perform despite the existence
of impairments which prevent the return to past relevant work
by obtaining testimony from a vocational expert. Id.
scope of judicial review by the federal courts in disability
cases is narrowly tailored to determine 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).
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. See Pyles v. Bowen,
849 F.2d 846, 848 (4th Cir. 1988) (citing Smith v.
Schweiker, 795 F.2d 343, 345 (4th Cir. 1986)). The
phrase "supported by substantial evidence" is
evidence which a reasoning mind would accept as sufficient to
support a particular conclusion. It consists of more than a
mere scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less than a
preponderance. If there is evidence to justify a refusal to
direct a verdict were the case before a jury, then there is
Laws v. Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640, 642 (4th Cir.
1966) (citation 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 the 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 was born on January 13, 1971 (Tr. 98). He has a GED
and past work history as an assembler, a line truck operator,
and a tractor operator on a farm (Tr. 257). He alleges that
he became disabled to work on August 1, 2011, due to
depression, temper disorder, mood swings, audio
hallucinations, carpal tunnel, body shakes, and poor eyesight
Aiken Barnwell Mental Health
March 17, 2009, the plaintiff requested help with his mood
and anger symptoms. His history included two admissions to
Aurora Pavilion Behavioral Health Services
("Aurora") (December 2006 and January 2007) (Tr.
369-70). After an admission to Aurora, the plaintiff was seen
on September 7, 2011. He was easily distracted, exhibited
psychomotor agitation, and reported severe mood swings. The
plaintiff experienced audio and visual ...