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) and
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) on March 19, 2012
(protective date), alleging disability as of May 1, 2010, due
to interstitial cystitis and bad knee. (R.p. 213-226,
269). Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and
upon reconsideration, as well as by an Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ) after a hearing, in a decision issued July 8,
2014. (R.pp. 11-25). Plaintiff appealed this decision to the
Appeals Council, and 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. 1-3).
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
therefore be reversed and 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. Substantial evidence has been defined
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-three (43) years old on her alleged disability onset
date, completed her education at least through the eleventh
grade, received a GED, and has obtained a nursing assistant
certification. She has past relevant work experience as a
cashier, cook, a housekeeper, and a general laborer in the
laundry business. (R.pp. 37, 269-270). 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 osteoarthritis of the
right knee, an affective disorder, interstitial cystitis, and
obesity, she nevertheless retained the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform sedentary work,  with the
following additional limitations: requiring a cane for
ambulation; no operation of foot pedals; no climbing of
ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; no kneeling, crawling, or
crouching; no more than occasional climbing of stairs,
balancing, and stooping; avoid all exposure to vibration,
heights, and dangerous machinery; requirement of ready access
to bathroom facilities; and limited to simple work with no
contact with the public as customers. (R.pp. 16, 18). The ALJ
further determined that, although the limitations caused by
Plaintiff's impairments precluded her from performing her
past relevant work, she could perform other representative
occupations such as an address clerk and a sample weight
tester with these limitations, and was therefore not entitled
to disability benefits. (R.p. 24).
asserts in reaching this decision the ALJ erred by performing
a faulty RFC analysis, failing to properly evaluate
Plaintiff's obesity pursuant to SSR 02-1p, failing to
properly resolve the issue of Plaintiff's ability to do
substantial work in significant numbers (specifically with
respect to Plaintiff needing a cane to ambulate), and failing
to properly evaluate Plaintiff's credibility. After
careful review and consideration of the record and arguments
from the parties, the undersigned is constrained to agree
with the Plaintiff that the ALJ's RFC analysis was
flawed, and that the decision must therefore be reversed and
remanded for further consideration of Plaintiff's claims.
respect to Plaintiff's mental impairment, the medical
evidence reflects that on June 2, 2012, J. P. Ginsberg, PhD,
opined that Plaintiff suffered from major depression with
psychosis and probable traumatic stress. (R.p. 611). Leslie
Burke, PhD, found that Plaintiff had moderate difficulties in
concentration, persistence, or pace on July 19, 2012.
(R.p.87). On August 6, 2012, Dr. James Key found insufficient
evidence of difficulties in Plaintiff's concentration,
persistence, or pace. (R.p. 73). However, when Plaintiff
presented to Eau Claire Behavioral Medicine in October 2012,
she was assessed with depression, recurrent with psychotic