United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division
Timothy M. Cain United States District Judge.
Ralph Praylow, Jr. (“Praylow”), brought this
action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review
of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying his claim for disability
insurance benefits (“DIB”) under the Social
Security Act (“SSA”). This matter is before the
court for review of the Report and Recommendation
(“Report”) of the United States Magistrate Judge,
made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local
Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(a), D.S.C. (ECF No. 17). In his Report,
the magistrate judge recommends that the Commissioner's
decision be affirmed. Plaintiff filed objections (ECF No.
19), and the Commissioner filed a reply (ECF No. 21). This
matter is now ripe for review.
filed an application for DIB on November 21, 2013, alleging
that he became unable to work on September 12, 2013, due to a
spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury
(“TBI”), migraine headaches, right frontal lobe
atrophy, and diabetes. His application was denied initially
and on reconsideration by the Social Security Administration.
He requested a review by an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”), and an ALJ conducted a hearing on
December 11, 2014.
April 30, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision, finding that
Praylow was not disabled as defined in the SSA from September
12, 2013, through the date of the decision. (ECF No. 6-2 at
6-26). The ALJ found that Praylow suffered from a combination
of severe impairments of post-traumatic stress disorder
(“PTSD”), anxiety, depression, organic mental
disorder, disorders of the spine, right upper extremity
neuropathy, and headaches. The ALJ specifically found that
Praylow's knee and shoulder impairments, diabetes,
plantar fasciitis, sleep apnea, tenia veriscolor, obesity,
and attention deficit disorder (“ADD”) were not
severe impairments. (ECF No. 6-2 at 13-14). The ALJ went on
to find that Praylow's impairments did not meet or
medically equal the criteria for any of the listed
impairments. Accordingly, the ALJ proceeded to assess
Praylow's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”), finding that Praylow could perform a
significant range of light work with limitations. The ALJ
concluded that Praylow could not perform his past relevant
work, but that he could perform other jobs in existence in
the national economy in significant numbers and, therefore,
denied his claim.
sought review by the Appeals Council and he submitted
additional evidence. On August 5, 2015, after considering the
additional information, the Appeals Council declined to
review the ALJ's decision. Praylow then filed this action
for judicial review on September 4, 2015. (ECF No. 1). The
magistrate judge filed his Report on September 7, 2016. (ECF
No. 17). On September 26, 2016, Praylow filed objections to
the Report (ECF No. 19), and on October 12, 2016, the
Commissioner filed a reply to those objections (ECF No. 21).
Standard of Review
federal judiciary has a limited role in the administrative
scheme established by the SSA. Section 405(g) of the Act
provides, “the findings of the Commissioner of Social
Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive . . . .” 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). “Substantial evidence has been defined . . . as
more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance.”
Thomas v. Celebrezze, 331 F.2d 541, 543 (4th Cir.
1964). This standard precludes a de novo review of the
factual circumstances that substitutes the court's
findings for those of the Commissioner. Vitek v.
Finch, 438 F.2d 1157 (4th Cir. 1971). Thus, in its
review, the court may not “undertake to re-weigh
conflicting evidence, make credibility determinations, or
substitute [its] own judgment for that of the
[Commissioner].” Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585,
589 (4th Cir. 1996).
“[f]rom this it does not follow . . . that the findings
of the administrative agency are to be mechanically accepted.
The statutorily granted right of review contemplates more
than an uncritical rubber stamping of the administrative
agency.” Flack v. Cohen, 413 F.2d 278, 279
(4th Cir. 1969). Rather, “the courts must not abdicate
their responsibility to give careful scrutiny to the whole
record to assure that there is a sound foundation for the
[Commissioner's] findings, and that this conclusion is
rational.” Vitek, 438 F.2d at 1157-58.
objections, Praylow contends that the magistrate judge erred
by finding the ALJ: 1) properly evaluated Praylow's
physical and mental severe and non-severe impairments in
combination; 2) gave the proper weight to the opinions of the
treating physicians, specifically those from the Department
of Veterans Affairs (“VA”); and 3) properly
identified jobs Praylow could perform with the limitations
found by the ALJ. At the outset, the court notes that
Praylow's arguments in support of his this objection are
essentially the same arguments that the magistrate judge
considered and rejected. However, the court addresses each in
Combination of Impairments
found Praylow had the severe impairments of PTSD, anxiety,
depression, organic mental disorder, disorders of the spine,
right upper extremity neuropathy, and headaches and the
non-severe impairments of knee impairments, degenerative
changes in the shoulder, diabetes mellitus, plantar
fasciitis, sleep apnea, tinea versicolor, and obesity.
Praylow contends that the ALJ erred by failing to evaluate
the combined effect of his severe and non-severe impairments.
magistrate judge noted that Praylow did not identify what
Listing he believed his impairments in combination meet or
equal. (Report at 12). The magistrate judge also found that
the ALJ adequately ...