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Fair v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

February 27, 2017

CALVIN HENRY FAIR, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          DAVID C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on United States Magistrate Judge Jacquelyn D. Austin's Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) that this court affirm Acting Commissioner of Social Security Nancy A. Berryhill's (the “Commissioner”) decision denying plaintiff Calvin Henry Fair's (“Fair”) application for social security insurance benefits (“SSI”). For the reasons set forth below, the court adopts the R&R and affirms the Commissioner's decision.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         A. Procedural History

         Fair filed an application for SSI on November 14, 2012, alleging disability beginning December 31, 2005. The Social Security Administration denied Fair's claim initially and on reconsideration. Fair requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), and ALJ Marcus Christ held a hearing on April 22, 2014. The ALJ issued a decision on May 19, 2014, finding that Fair was not disabled under the Social Security Act (the “Act”). Fair requested Appeals Council review of the ALJ's decision. The Appeals Council declined to review the decision, rendering the ALJ's decision the final action of the Commissioner.

         On November 4, 2015, Fair filed this action seeking review of the ALJ's decision. The magistrate judge issued an R&R on January 5, 2017, recommending that this court affirm the ALJ's decision. Fair filed objections to the R&R on January 18, 2017, and the Commissioner responded to Fair's objections on January 24, 2017. The matter is now ripe for the court's review.

         B. Medical History

         Because Fair's medical history is not directly at issue here, the court dispenses with a lengthy recitation thereof and instead notes a few relevant facts. Fair was born on August 6, 1969 and was 43 years old on the date his application was filed. He communicates in English and has a limited education.

         C. ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ employed the statutorily required five-step sequential evaluation process to determine whether Fair had been under a disability since the date his application was filed. The ALJ first determined that Fair had not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the relevant time period. At step two, the ALJ found that Fair suffered from the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease, intellectual deficits, post-traumatic stress disorder, and major depression. At step three, the ALJ determined that Fair's impairments did not meet or equal one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (“the Listings”). Before reaching the fourth step, the ALJ determined that Fair had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform:

[l]ight work (described as requiring lifting and carrying 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently as well as an ability to stand, sit, and walk each for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday) with occasional climbing of ladders, ropes and scaffolds; frequent climbing [of] ladders and ramps, crouching, stooping; occasional kneeling and crawling; frequent (as opposed to constant) overhead reaching; and no exposure to unprotected heights.

R. 14. Additionally, the ALJ determined that Fair's RFC was “limited to simple, routine tasks in a low stress work environment (described as involving only occasional changes in work setting and not involving production rate or fast-paced work) with only occasional interaction with the public and co-workers.” Id. At step four, the ALJ found that Fair was unable to perform past relevant work as a laborer, but based on his age, education, RFC, and the testimony of a vocational expert, Fair could perform certain jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy. Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Fair had not been under a disability within the meaning of the Act since the date of his application for SSI.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         This court is charged with conducting a de novo review of any portion of the magistrate judge's R&R to which specific, written objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). A party's failure to object is accepted as agreement with the conclusions of the magistrate judge. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149-50 (1985). The recommendation of the magistrate judge carries no presumptive weight, and the ...


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