United States District Court, D. South Carolina
J. GOSSETT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
social security matter is before the court pursuant to Local
Civil Rule 83.VII.02 (D.S.C.) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) for
final adjudication, with the consent of the parties, of the
plaintiff's petition for judicial review. The plaintiff,
Thelma Victoria Johnson, brought this action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) to obtain judicial
review of a final decision of the defendant, Acting
Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”),
denying her claims for Child's Insurance Benefits
(“CIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”). Having carefully considered the
parties' submissions and the applicable law, the court
concludes that the Commissioner's decision should be
SECURITY DISABILITY GENERALLY
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A), (d)(5) and §
1382c(a)(3)(H)(i), as well as pursuant to the regulations
formulated by the Commissioner, the plaintiff has the burden
of proving disability, which is defined as an
“inability to do 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 a continuous period
of not less than 12 months.” 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1505(a), 416.905(a); see also Blalock v.
Richardson, 483 F.2d 773 (4th Cir. 1973). The
regulations require the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) to consider, in sequence:
(1) whether the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful
(2) whether the claimant has a “severe”
(3) whether the claimant has an impairment that meets or
equals the requirements of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (“the Listings”),
and is thus presumptively disabled;
(4) whether the claimant can perform her past relevant work;
(5) whether the claimant's impairments prevent her from
doing any other kind of work.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4),
416.920(a)(4). If the ALJ can make a determination that a
claimant is or is not disabled at any point in this process,
review does not proceed to the next step. Id.
this analysis, a claimant has the initial burden of showing
that she is unable to return to her past relevant work
because of her impairments. Once the claimant establishes a
prima facie case of disability, the burden shifts to
the Commissioner. To satisfy this burden, the Commissioner
must establish that the claimant has the residual functional
capacity, considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and impairments, to perform alternative jobs that
exist in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. §§
423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A)-(B); see also McLain v.
Schweiker, 715 F.2d 866, 868-69 (4th Cir. 1983);
Hall v. Harris, 658 F.2d 260, 264-65 (4th Cir.
1981); Wilson v. Califano, 617 F.2d 1050, 1053 (4th
Cir. 1980). The Commissioner may carry this burden by
obtaining testimony from a vocational expert. Grant v.
Schweiker, 699 F.2d 189, 192 (4th Cir. 1983).
February 2012, Johnson filed for CIB and SSI, alleging
disability beginning January 1, 2003. Johnson's
applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration,
and she requested a hearing before an ALJ. A hearing was held
on October 3, 2014, at which Johnson, who was represented by
Harry F. Smithson, Esquire, appeared and testified. At the
hearing, Johnson amended her alleged disability onset date to
December 11, 2007. After hearing testimony from Johnson's
father and a vocational expert, the ALJ issued a decision on
December 19, 2014 finding that Johnson was not disabled prior
to May 1, 2012, but became disabled on that date and
continued to be disabled through the date of the decision.
was born in 1986 and had not attained the age of twenty-two
as of December 11, 2007-the amended alleged onset date. She
has a college education and has no prior work experience.
(Tr. 228.) Johnson alleged disability due to cerebral palsy,
neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, headaches, hand
trembles, muscle spasms in lower back and shoulders,
segmental dystonia, restless leg syndrome, and asthma. (Tr.
applying the five-step sequential process, the ALJ found that
Johnson had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since
December 11, 2007-her amended alleged onset date. The ALJ
also determined that, prior to the date Johnson attained age
twenty-two, Johnson's cerebral palsy, cervical dystonia,
asthma, and a learning disability were severe impairments.
However, the ALJ found that, prior to attaining age
twenty-two and through and until Johnson became disabled on
May 1, 2012, Johnson did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the
severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1 (the “Listings”). The ALJ
further found that, prior to attaining age twenty-two and
through and until Johnson became disabled on May 1, 2012,
Johnson retained the residual functional capacity to
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and
416.967(a), except the claimant is able to perform frequent
reaching, handling, fingering and feeling and occasional
pushing, pulling and postural activities but no climbing of
ladders, ropes or scaffolds; she must avoid concentrated
exposure to respiratory irritants and extreme temperatures;
and she has the mental capacity to perform unskilled work.
(Tr. 116.) The ALJ found that Johnson had no past relevant
work but that, prior to May 1, 2012, considering
Johnson's age, education, work experience, and residual
functional capacity, there were jobs that existed in
significant numbers in the national economy that Johnson
could have performed. Therefore, the ALJ found that Johnson
was not disabled at any time prior to March 19, 2008-the date
she attained age twenty-two. However, the ALJ found that,
beginning on May 1, 2012, the severity of Johnson's
impairments was sufficient to meet Listing 11.07D.
Accordingly, the ALJ found that Johnson was not disabled
prior to May 1, 2012, but became disabled on that date and
continued to be disabled through the date of the decision.
Appeals Council denied Johnson's request for review on
April 18, 2016, making the decision of the ALJ the final
action of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-5.) This action followed.
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the court may review the
Commissioner's denial of benefits. However, this review
is limited to considering whether the Commissioner's
findings “are supported by substantial evidence and
were reached through application of the correct legal
standard.” Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589
(4th Cir. 1996); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
Coffman v. Bowen, 829 F.2d 514, 517 (4th Cir. 1987).
Thus, the court may review only whether the
Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial
evidence and whether the correct law was applied. See
Myers v. Califano, 611 F.2d 980, 982 (4th Cir.
1980). “Substantial evidence” means “such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion; it consists of more than a
mere scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less than a
preponderance.” Craig, 76 F.3d at 589. In
reviewing the evidence, the court may not “undertake to
re-weigh conflicting evidence, make credibility
determinations, or substitute [its] judgment for that of the
[Commissioner].” Id. Accordingly, even if the
court disagrees with the Commissioner's decision, the
court must uphold it if it is supported by substantial
evidence. Blalock, 483 F.2d at 775.
raises the following issues for this judicial review:
I. The ALJ's determination that Plaintiff was disabled on
May 1, 2012, but not earlier, was not explained properly
pursuant to the Mandatory Discussion Requirements of Social
Security Ruling 96-8p ...