United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Orangeburg Division
Louise Gadsden, Plaintiff, represented by Beatrice E.
Whitten, Beatrice E. Whitten Law Office.
C. NORTON, District Judge.
matter is before the court on United States Magistrate Judge
Kaymani D. West's Report and Recommendation
("R&R") that this court affirm Acting Commissioner
of Social Security Carolyn Colvin's (the
"Commissioner") decision denying plaintiff Debbie
Louise Gadsden's ("Gadsden") claims for
disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and
supplemental security income benefits ("SSIB").
Gadsden filed objections to the R&R. For the reasons set
forth below, the court rejects the R&R, and reverses and
remands the Commissioner's decision.
filed an application for DIB in December 2011, alleging
disability beginning June 30, 2006. In February 2012, Gadsden
filed an application for SSIB alleging a disability beginning
June 30, 2005. The Social Security Administration denied
Gadsden's applications initially and on reconsideration.
Gadsden requested a hearing before an administrative law
judge ("ALJ"), and ALJ Richard L. Vogel held a
hearing on September 20, 2013. At the hearing, Gadsden
amended her alleged onset date to December 22, 2011. The ALJ
issued a decision on October 21, 2013, finding Gadsden was
not disabled under the Social Security Act. Gadsden requested
Appeals Council review of the ALJ's decision. The Appeals
Council declined to review the decision, rendering the
ALJ's decision the final action of the Commissioner.
April 2, 2015, Gadsden filed this action seeking review of
the ALJ's decision. The magistrate judge issued an R&R on
May 17, 2016, recommending that this court affirm the
ALJ's decision. Gadsden filed objections to the R&R on
June 7, 2016, and the Commissioner responded to Gadsden's
objections on June 24, 2016. The matter is now ripe for the
Gadsden's medical history is not directly at issue here,
the court dispenses with a lengthy recitation thereof and
instead notes a few relevant facts. Gadsden was born in March
1963 and was 48 years old at the time of her alleged
disability onset date. She communicates in English and has
one year of college.
December 22, 2011, Gadsden applied for disability benefits
with the Department of Veterans Affairs ("VA")
seeking compensation for various "serviceconnected
impairments." Tr. 209-25. On July 24, 2013, the VA
issued a Rating decision (the "2013 VA Rating")
granting Gadsden's claim and assigning a disability
evaluation of 70% for major depressive disorder, 30% for
migraine headaches, 10% for acid reflux, and an overall
disability rating of 70% disability. Tr. 216-19. The 2013 VA
Rating was included in the record at Gadsden's September
20, 2013, hearing. The VA issued a new decision on
Gadsden's claim for benefits on June 11, 2014, outlining
her entitlement to benefits and again assigning disability
evaluations of 70% for major depressive disorder and 30% for
migraine headaches. Tr. 295-301. Days later, on June 16,
2014, the VA sent a letter certifying that Gadsden was 100%
permanently disabled (the "2014 VA Rating"). Tr.
302. The 2014 VA Rating and the records of a May 2014
Compensation and Pension Exam ("C&P Exam") were
included in Gadsden's submission to the Appeals Council.
Pl.'s Objections 2-3.
employed the statutorily required five-step sequential
evaluation process to determine if Gadsden was disabled
between December 22, 2011, and September 20, 2013, the date
of the hearing. At step one, the ALJ determined that Gadsden
had not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the
relevant time period. Tr. 31. At step two, the ALJ found that
Gadsden suffered from the following severe impairments:
depression, migraine headaches, and obesity. Tr. 31 At step
three, the ALJ determined that Gadsden's impairments did
not meet or equal one of the listed impairments in the
Agency's Listing of Impairments ("the
Listings"). Tr. 32; see 20 C.F.R. Â§ 404, Subpt. P,
App'x 1. Before reaching the fourth step, the ALJ
determined that Gadsden had the residual functional capacity
("RFC") to perform light work, as defined by 20
C.F.R. Â§ 404.1567(b), with certain restrictions. Tr. 34. More
specifically, the ALJ determined that Gadsden could lift and
carry up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently,
could stand, walk and sit for six hours each in an eight hour
workday, could never climb, crawl or balance for safety,
could not have exposure to workplace hazards, and should be
given a stand/sit option. Tr. 34. The ALJ further determined
that Gadsden was limited to work in a low stress environment.
Tr. 34. At step four, the ALJ found that Gadsden was unable
to perform her past relevant work in the Coast Guard. Tr. 37.
Finally, at step five, the ALJ concluded that, considering
Gadsden's age, education, work experience, and RFC, she
could perform jobs existing in significant numbers in the
national economy, and therefore concluded that she was not
disabled during the period at issue. Tr. 38
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court is charged with conducting a de novo review of any
portion of the magistrate judge's R&R to which specific,
written objections are made. 28 U.S.C. Â§ 636(b)(1). A
party's failure to object is accepted as agreement with
the conclusions of the magistrate judge. See Thomas v.
Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149-50 (1985). The recommendation of
the magistrate judge carries no presumptive weight, and the