United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Aiken Division
C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the court on United States Magistrate Judge
Shiva V. Hodge's Report and Recommendation
("R&R") that this court reverse and remand
Acting Commissioner of Social Security Nancy A.
Berryhill's ("the Commissioner")
decision-denying plaintiff Janice Marie McDaniel's
("McDaniel") application for disability insurance
benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income
("SSI"). The Commissioner filed objections to the
R&R. For the reasons set forth below, the court adopts
the R&R, reverses the Commissioner's decision, and
remands for further administrative proceedings.
otherwise noted, the following background is drawn from the
filed an application for DIB and SSI on November 8 and
November 3, 2011, respectively, alleging disability beginning
on August 31, 2008. The Social Security Agency denied
McDaniel's claim initially and on reconsideration.
McDaniel requested a hearing before an administrative law
judge ("ALJ"), and ALJ Frederick W. Christian held
a hearing on December 17, 2013.
issued a decision on August 27, 2014, finding McDaniel not
disabled under the Social Security Act. McDaniel requested
Appeals Council review of the ALJ's decision. The Appeals
Council denied McDaniel's request for review, rendering
the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. On February 18, 2016, McDaniel filed this
action seeking review of the ALJ's decision. The
magistrate judge issued an R&R on November 30, 2016,
recommending that this court reverse and remand the ALJ's
decision. The Commissioner filed objections to the R&R on
December 16, 2016, to which McDaniel responded on January 3,
2017. The matter is now ripe for the court's review.
McDaniel's medical history is not directly at issue here,
the court dispensed with a lengthy recitation thereof and
instead notes a few relevant facts. McDaniel was born oh
February 22, 1962, and was 46 years old on the alleged onset
date. She has a ninth grade education and past relevant work
experience as a cashier checker and a hotel clerk.
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
employed the statutorily-required five-step sequential
evaluation process to determine whether McDaniel was disabled
from August 31, 2008, through the date last " insured,
December 31, 2013. The ALJ first determined that McDaniel did
not engage in substantial gainful activity during the period
at issue. Tr. 19. At the second step, the ALJ found that
McDaniel suffered from the following severe impairments:
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, obesity,
fibromyalgia, depression, obstructive sleep apnea, and
degenerative disc disease. Tr. 19. At step three, the ALJ found
that McDaniel's impairments or combination of impairments
did not meet or equal one of the listed impairments in the
Agency's Listings of Impairments ("the
Listings"). Tr. 19-21; see 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpt. P, App'x 1. Before reaching the fourth step, the
ALJ determined McDaniel had the residual function capacity
("RFC") to perform light work as defined by 20
C.F.R. 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b). Tr. 21. Specifically, the
ALJ found that McDaniel could lift and/or carry (including
upward pulling) twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds
frequently; stand and/or walk (with normal breaks) for a
total of about six hours in an eight-hour day; sit (with
normal breaks) for a total of about six hours in an
eight-hour day except no exposure to excessive dust, fumes,
gases, odors or otheratmospheric pollutants, nor to extremes
of temperature and humidity; never climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds; and occasionally climb stairs, stoop, kneel,
crouch, or crawl; and is limited to unskilled work. Tr. 21.
The ALJ found at step four that McDaniel was unable to
perform any past relevant work. Tr. 31. Finally, at step
five, the ALJ determined that, considering McDaniel's
age, education, work experience, and RFC, she could perform
jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy
and concluded that she was not disabled during the period at
issue. Tr. 32.
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 ...