United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division
Mary D. Pinkney, Plaintiff,
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
Pinkney, Plaintiff, represented by Nicholas George Callas,
Popowski Callas and Shirley.
Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant,
represented by Barbara Murcier Bowens, U.S. Attorneys Office.
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 Section 205(g) of
the Social Security Act, as amended (42 U.S.C. 405(g)) to
obtain judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security denying her claim for
disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social
plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance
benefits ("DIB") on June 9, 2011, alleging that she
became unable to work on May 8, 2011. The application was
denied initially and on reconsideration by the Social
Security Administration. On March 23, 2012, the plaintiff
requested a hearing. The administrative law judge
("ALJ"), before whom the plaintiff and William W.
Stewart, Ph.D., an impartial vocational expert, appeared on
August 2, 2013, considered the case de novo and, on
January 30, 2014, 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 May 14,
2015. The plaintiff then filed this action for 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 meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2016.
(2) The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since May 8, 2011, the alleged onset date (20 C.F.R.
Â§ 404.1571 et seq ).
(3) The claimant has the following severe impairments: panic
disorder with agoraphobia, major depressive disorder,
obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD) (20 C.F.R. Â§ 404.1520(c)).
(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. Â§Â§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, and
(5) After careful consideration of the entire record, I find
that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform a range of work at all exertional levels but with the
following nonexertional limitations: due to her mental
impairments, she is restricted to unskilled work requiring no
interaction with the public and no team-type interaction with
(6) The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work
(20 C.F.R. Â§ 404.1565).
(7) The claimant was born on February 21, 1956, and was 55
years old, which is defined as an individual of advanced age,
on the alleged disability onset date (20 C.F.R. Â§ 404.1563).
(8) The claimant has a a high school education and is able to
communicate in English (20 C.F.R. Â§ 404.1564).
(9) Transferability of job skills is not material to the
determination of disability because using the
Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding
that the claimant is "not disabled, " whether or
not claimant has transferable job skills ( See SSR
82-41 and 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
(10) Considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that claimant can perform (20 C.F.R. Â§Â§ 404.1569 and
(11) The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from May 8, 2011, through the
date of the decision (20 C.F.R. Â§ 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. 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§ 404.1520. If an individual is found not disabled
at any step, further inquiry is unnecessary. Id. Â§
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 that the plaintiff can perform despite the existence
of impairments that 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).
plaintiff was 55 years old on her alleged disability onset
date (May 8, 2011) and 57 years old on the date of the
ALJ's decision (January 30, 2014). She has a high school
education and past relevant work as a machine operator at
Beckton Dickinson and Company, where she worked for 35 years
(Tr. 25, 35).
December 28, 2010, while she was still working, the plaintiff
sought treatment for vague chest pain and hypertension. Her
blood pressure initially was 169/88, but on repeat
measurement without treatment was 130/76. Her cardiac enzymes
and EKG were normal. Her chest x-ray showed that her lungs
were well expanded and clear, and her heart and chest bones
were unremarkable with no active disease. On physical
examination, Joseph A. Campbell, ...