United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division
REPORT OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE
F. McDonald United States 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 supplemental security
income (“SSI”) benefits on November 16, 2010. He
also filed an application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) on January 26, 2011. In both applications
the plaintiff alleges that he became unable to work on
November 1, 2009. The applications were denied initially and
on reconsideration by the Social Security Administration. On
July 26, 2011, the plaintiff requested a hearing. The
administrative law judge (“ALJ”), before whom the
plaintiff and Robert E. Brabham, Jr., an impartial vocational
expert, appeared on October 2, 2012, considered the case
de novo, and on January 31, 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 the plaintiff’s request for
review on April 14, 2014. The plaintiff then filed this
action for judicial review.
making the determination that the plaintiff is not entitled
to benefits, the Commissioner has adopted the following
findings of the ALJ:
(1) The claimant last met the insured status requirements of
the Social Security Act on March 31, 2011.
(2) The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since November 1, 2009, the alleged onset date (20
C.F.R §§ 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971
(3) The claimant has the following severe impairments: status
post traumatic head injury and seizure disorder, controlled
on prescribed medication; borderline intellectual
functioning; obesity (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) and
(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,
416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
(5) After careful consideration of the entire record, I find
that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform work with restrictions that require simple, routine
tasks; occasional ongoing interaction with the general
public; no lifting or carrying over 20 pounds occasionally
and 10 pounds frequently; no more than frequent stooping,
crouching, kneeling, and balancing; occasional crawling and
climbing stairs/ramps; no climbing ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds; no tasks that require fine distant visual acuity;
and no exposure to hazards such as unprotected heights and
(6) The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work
as a press operator. This work does not require the
performance of work-related activities precluded by the
claimant’s residual functional capacity (20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1565 and 416.965).
(7) The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from November 1, 2009, through
the date of this decision (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g)
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.
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. §
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. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. If an individual is
found not disabled at any step, further inquiry is
unnecessary. Id. §§ 404.1520(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. §
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 defined as:
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).