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 Civil 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 Sections 205(g) and
1631(c)(3) of the Social Security Act, as amended (42 U.S.C.
405(g) and 1383(c)(3)), to obtain judicial review of a final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his
claims for disability insurance benefits and supplemental
security income benefits under Titles II and XVI of the
Social Security Act.
plaintiff filed applications for disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income
(“SSI”) benefits on March 29, 2012, and March 31,
2012, respectively, alleging that he became unable to work on
December 15, 2011. The applications were denied initially and
on reconsideration by the Social Security Administration. On
September 21, 2012, the plaintiff requested a hearing. The
administrative law judge (“ALJ”), before whom the
plaintiff, his attorney, and Pedro M.
an impartial vocational expert, appeared at a video hearing
on January 16, 2014, considered the case de novo,
and on June 13, 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 September
25, 2015 (Tr. 1-3). The plaintiff then filed this action for
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 December 15, 2011, the alleged onset date (20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1571 et seq. and 416.971
(3) The claimant has the following severe impairment:
Degenerative Disc Disease with Status Post L4-5 Decompression
(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 stand or walk for approximately 4-6
hours in an 8hour workday with normal breaks; sit for
approximately 6 hours in an 8-hour workday with normal
breaks; frequently use his upper extremities bilaterally; the
claimant can occasionally operate foot controls bilaterally;
cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; can occasionally
balance, and may require the use of a hand-held assistive
device (e.g. a cane) when balancing (and walking) on uneven
terrain or prolonged ambulation (i.e., walking of more than
one hour at time), and if using a cane, can use the
contra-lateral upper extremity to lift and carry up to the
exertional limits described above, can occasionally stoop,
kneel, crawl, or climb ramps and stairs; cannot crouch; and
should avoid even moderate exposure to hazards (moving
machinery, unprotected heights). Additionally, the claimant
is limited to work involving simple, routine, and repetitive
tasks (this is due to the side effects of medications, and in
giving the claimant the benefit of the doubt as to complaints
of pain; it is not due to any established or alleged mental
(6) The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work
(20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1565 and 416.965).
(7) The claimant was born on August 31, 1965, and was 46
years old, which is defined as a younger individual age
18-49, on the alleged disability onset date (20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1563 and 416.963).
(8) The claimant has a limited education and is able to
communicate in English (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1564 and
(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 C.F.R. 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 C.F.R. §§
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 December 15, 2011, through
the date of this decision (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g)
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, 416.920. 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 which the plaintiff can perform despite the existence