United States District Court, D. South Carolina
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Bristow Marchant United States Magistrate Judge
Plaintiff filed the complaint in this action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner wherein she was denied
disability benefits. This case was referred to the
undersigned for a report and recommendation pursuant to Local
Rule 73.02(B)(2)(a), (D.S.C.).
applied for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) on July 5,
2012 (protective filing date), alleging disability as of
October 19, 2011, due to pulmonary embolisms, panic attacks,
anxiety, PTSD, and agoraphobia. (R.p. 173-178, 197).
Plaintiff's claim for DIB was denied initially and upon
reconsideration, as well as by an Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ) in a decision issued August 4, 2014. (R.pp. 13-25).
Plaintiff appealed this decision to the Appeals Council. The
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for a review
of the ALJ's decision, thereby making the determination
of the ALJ the final decision of the Commissioner. (R.pp.
then filed this action in United States District Court,
asserting that there is not substantial evidence to support
the ALJ's decision, and that the decision should be
reversed and/or remanded for further consideration. The
Commissioner contends that the decision to deny benefits is
supported by substantial evidence, and that Plaintiff was
properly found not to be disabled.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the Court's scope of review is
limited to (1) whether the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence, and (2) whether the
ultimate conclusions reached by the Commissioner are legally
correct under controlling law. Hays v. Sullivan, 907
F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990); Richardson v.
Califano, 574 F.2d 802, 803 (4th Cir. 1978); Myers
v. Califano, 611 F.2d 980, 982-983 (4th Cir. 1980). If
the record contains substantial evidence to support the
Commissioner's decision, it is the court's duty to
affirm the decision.
evidence has been 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 refusal to
direct a verdict were the case before a jury, then there is
“substantial evidence.” [emphasis added].
Hays, 907 F.2d at 1456 (citing Laws v.
Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640 (4th Cir. 1966)); see
also, Hepp v. Astrue, 511 F.3d 798, 806
(8th cir. 2008)[Noting that the substantial
evidence standard is even “less demanding than the
preponderance of the evidence standard”].
Court lacks the authority to substitute its own judgment for
that of the Commissioner. Laws, 368 F.2d at 642.
"[T]he language of [405(g)] precludes a de novo judicial
proceeding and requires that the court uphold the
[Commissioner's] decision even should the court disagree
with such decision as long as it is supported by substantial
evidence." Blalock v. Richardson, 483 F.2d 773,
775 (4th Cir. 1972).
review of the record shows that Plaintiff, who was forty-six
(46) years old on her alleged onset date, has four or more
years of college and past relevant work experience as a
teacher, a university registrar, a director of technology,
and a computer instructor. (R.pp. 34, 78, 198). In order to
be considered "disabled" within the meaning of the
Social Security Act, Plaintiff must show that she has an
impairment or combination of impairments which prevent her
from engaging in all substantial gainful activity for which
she is qualified by her age, education, experience and
functional capacity, and which has lasted or could reasonably
be expected to last for at least twelve (12) consecutive
review of the evidence and testimony in this case, the ALJ
determined that although Plaintiff does suffer from the
“severe” impairments of migraine headaches and
anxiety, she nevertheless retained the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform a full range of work at all
exertional levels, but with the following nonexertional
limitations: the performance of only simple, routine,
repetitive tasks with no ongoing interaction with the public,
and only work in an uncrowded setting with no close
coordination with coworkers. (R.p. 20). The ALJ further
determined that while the limitations caused by
Plaintiff's impairments precluded her from performing her
past relevant work, she could perform other representative
occupations such as janitor, cleaner, and surveillance system
monitor with these limitations, and was therefore not
disabled. (R.p. 25).
asserts that in reaching this decision, the ALJ erred by not
providing a rationale for how he determined Plaintiff's
RFC, and by improperly evaluating and rejecting the opinion
of Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Jeffrey Jennings.
After careful review and consideration of the record and
arguments presented, the undersigned is constrained to agree
with the Plaintiff that the ALJ failed to properly account
for the restrictions ...