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 Civ. 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 September 27, 2011, alleging
that she became unable to work on August 23, 2011. The
application was denied initially and on reconsideration by
the Social Security Administration. On August 28, 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 at a
hearing on March 12, 2014, considered the case de
novo and, on April 4, 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 July
23, 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 August 23, 2011, the alleged onset date (20
C.F.R. § 404.1571 et seq).
(3) The claimant had the following severe impairments:
obesity, status post open reduction internal fixation of the
right ankle, left femur fracture status post IM rod
placement, left ulna and radial fracture status post open
reduction internal fixation (20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c)).
(4) The claimant also has the following non-severe
impairment: mild chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
(COPD)(20 C.F.R. 404.1521 and 416.921).
(5) 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,
(6) After careful consideration of the entire record, I find
that, the claimant had the residual functional capacity to
perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §
404.1567(b). In particular, the claimant can lift or carry up
to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. She can
stand or walk for approximately 6 hours of an 8-hour workday
and sit for approximately 6 hours of an 8-hour workday with
normal breaks. However, the claimant is limited to frequent
pushing and pulling with her left upper extremity and right
lower extremity and must not climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds. She is limited to frequent balancing, occasional
climbing of ramps and stairs, occasional stooping, kneeling,
crouching, and crawling, and she must avoid concentrated
exposure to hazards.
(7) The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work
as a cake decorator/caterer helper, customer service
representative, sales associate, cashier, cash office clerk.
This work did not require the performance fo work-related
activities precluded by the claimant's residual
functional capacity (20 C.F.R. § 404.1565).
(8) The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from August 23, 2011, through the
date of this decision (20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f)).
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. 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 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, ...