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Gardner v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division

August 24, 2016

Yolanda Yevette Gardner, Plaintiff,
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          ORDER

          R. BRYAN HARWELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court following the issuance of a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) by United States Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett.[1] Plaintiff, Yolanda Yevette Gardner, brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commission of Social Security (“the Commissioner”) denying Plaintiff's claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). The Magistrate Judge recommended affirming the Administrative Law Judge's decision denying Plaintiff's claim for benefits.

         Factual Findings and Procedural History

         Plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI on December 15, 2011, alleging disability as of October 15, 2010. The applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). A hearing was held before the ALJ on August 21, 2013. Plaintiff, represented by a non-attorney representative, appeared and testified. A vocational expert also testified. The ALJ issued a decision on September 19, 2013, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled. The ALJ's findings are as follows:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through June 30, 2014.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 15, 2010, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease; obesity; and bilateral knee osteoarthritis and internal derangement status/post right knee arthroscopy (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(c) and 416.920(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. 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except she cannot push or pull with the lower extremities. She can occasionally climb ramps/stairs and stoop but do no kneeling, climbing of ladders/ropes/scaffolds, balancing for safety on dangerous surfaces, crouching or crawling. She can frequently reach bilaterally and should avoid exposure to hazards such as unprotected heights and dangerous moving machinery. Additionally, she requires a sit/stand option at the workstation every 30 minutes to one hour.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on February 13, 1971, and was 39 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-44, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).
8. The claimant has a limited education and is able to communicate in English. (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964).
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 the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR 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 the claimant can perform (20 CFR 404.1569, 404.1569(a), 416.969, and 416.969(a)).
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from October 15, 2010, through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).

[ALJ Decision, ECF #10-2, at 13-22, Tr. 27-37].

         The ALJ's finding became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for further review on January 9, 2015. Plaintiff filed this action on March 9, 2015, seeking judicial review of the ALJ's decision. [Compl., ECF #1]. Both Plaintiff and Defendant filed briefs, [ECF ## 11 & 12]. The Magistrate Judge issued her Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) on April 19, 2016, recommending that the ALJ's decision be affirmed. [R&R, ECF #14]. Plaintiff filed timely objections to the R&R on May 9, 2016. [Plaintiff's Objections, ECF #25]. Defendant filed a reply to Plaintiff's objections on May 20, 2016. [ECF #16].

         Standard of Review

         The federal judiciary has a limited role in the administrative scheme established by the Act, which provides the Commissioner's findings “shall be conclusive” if they are “supported by substantial evidence.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “Substantial evidence has been defined innumerable times as more than a scintilla, but less than preponderance.” Thomas v. Celebrezze, 331 F.2d 541, 543 (4th Cir. 1964). Substantial evidence “means such relevant ...


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