United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division
C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on United States Magistrate Judge
Paige J. Gossett's Report and Recommendation
("R&R") that this court affirm Acting
Commissioner of Social Security Nancy A. Berryhill's
("the Commissioner") decision denying plaintiff
Eric Anthony Shuler's ("Shuler") application
for disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). Shuler
filed objections to the R&R. For the reasons set forth
below, the court adopts the R&R and affirms the
otherwise noted, the following background is drawn from the
filed an application for DIB on September 2, 2009, alleging
disability beginning on January 8, 2009. The Social Security
Agency denied Shuler's claim initially and on
reconsideration. Shuler requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge ("ALJ"), and ALJ Linda R.
Haack held a hearing on May 16, 2011. The ALJ issued a
decision on' July 28, 2011, finding Shuler not disabled
under the Social Security Act. Shuler requested Appeals
Council review of the ALJ's decision. The Appeals Council
denied Shuler's request for review, rendering the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
Shuler appealed to this court, which reversed the ALJ's
July 28, 2011 decision and remanded Shuler's claim for
further consideration of the combination of Shuler's
impairments in determining whether his impairments met or
equaled the requirements of a listing. See Shuler v.
Colvin, No. 0:13-cv-1504-DCN, 2014 WL 4809837 (D.S.C.
Sept. 26, 2014). On July 30, 2015, ALJ Edward T. Morriss held
Shuler's second hearing and issued a decision on November
3, 2015, finding Shuler was not disabled.
February 22, 2016, Shuler filed the present action seeking
review of the ALJ's decision. The magistrate judgment
issued an R&R on June 29, 2017, recommending that this
court affirm the ALJ's decision. Shuler filed objections
to the R&R on July 22, 2017, and the Commissioner
responded to Shuler's objections on July 27, 2017. The
matter is now ripe for the court's review.
Shuler's medical history is not directly at issue here,
the court dispenses with a lengthy recitation thereof and
instead notes a few relevant facts. Shuler was born on March
13, 1974, and was 34 years old on the alleged onset date. He
has an eighth grade education and past relevant work
experience as a dry wall laborer and a drywall
Social Security Act defines "disability" as 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 a continuous period
of not less than 12 months[.]" 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a). The Social
Security regulations establish a five-step sequential
evaluation process to determine whether a claimant is
disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. Under
this process, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant:
(1) "is currently engaged in substantial gainful
activity;" (2) "has a severe impairment;" (3)
has an impairment which equals an illness contained in 20
C.F.R. § 404, Subpt. P, App'x 1, "which
warrants a finding of disability without considering
vocational factors;" (4) if not, whether the claimant
has an impairment that prevents him or her from performing
past relevant work; and (5) if so, "whether the claimant
is able to perform other work considering both his [or her]
remaining physical and mental capacities" (defined by
his or her residual functional capacity) and his or her
"vocational capabilities (age, education, and past work
experience) to adjust to a new job." Hall v.
Harris, 658 F.2d 260, 264-65 (4th Cir. 1981); 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a)(4). The applicant bears the burden of
proof during the first four steps of the inquiry, while the
burden shifts to the Commissioner for the final step.
Pass v. Chater. 65 F.3d 1200, 1203 (4th Cir. 1995)
(citing Hunter v. Sullivan, 993 F.2d 31, 35 (4th
ALJ, employed the statutorily-required five-step sequential
evaluation process to determine whether Shuler was disabled
from January 8, 2009, through the date last insured, June 30,
2013. The ALJ first determined that Shuler did not engage in
substantial gainful activity during the period at issue. Tr.
600. At the second step, the ALJ found that Shuler suffered
from the following severe impairments: degenerative disc
disease status post laminectomy syndrome. Tr. 600. At step
three, the ALJ found that Shuler's impairments of
combination of impairments did not meet or equal one of the
listed impairments in the Agency's Listings of
Impairments ("the Listings"). Tr. 602-03;
see 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpt. P, App'x 1.
Before reaching the fourth step, the ALJ determined Shuler
had the residual function capacity ("RFC") to
perform light work as defined by 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b). Tr.
603. Specifically, the ALJ found that Shuler could lift,
" carry, push, and pull up to twenty pounds occasionally
and ten pounds frequently; sit approximately six hours in an
eight-hour day; stand and/or walk approximately six hours in
an eight-hour day; occasionally climb ramps and stairs; never
climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; frequently balance; and
occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; with the need
to avoid all hazards such as machinery and heights. Tr. 603.
TheALJ found at step four that Shuler was unable to perform
any past relevant work. Tr. 608. Finally, at step five, the
ALJ determined that, considering Shuler's age, education,
work experience, and RFC, he could perform jobs existing in
significant numbers in the national economy and concluded
that he was not disabled during the period at issue. Tr.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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 magistrate judge's conclusions. See
Thomas v. Arn. 474 U.S. 140, 149-50 (1985). The
R&R carries no presumptive weight, and the ...