United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson/Greenwood Division
C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
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
Sherrie Lynette Lawson's (“Lawson”)
application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) and supplemental security income
(“SSI”). Lawson filed objections to the R&R.
For the reasons set forth below, the court adopts the R&R
and affirms the Commissioner's decision.
otherwise noted, the following background is drawn from the
filed an application for DIB and SSI on September 28, 2012,
alleging disability beginning on September 18, 2012. The
Social Security Agency denied Lawson's claim initially
and on reconsideration. Lawson requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”), and ALJ Gregory
M. Wilson held a hearing on September 5, 2014.
issued a decision on January 23, 2015, finding Lawson not
disabled under the Social Security Act. Lawson requested
Appeals Council review of the ALJ's decision. The Appeals
Council denied Lawson's request for review, rendering the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. On
June 7, 2016, Lawson filed this action seeking review of the
ALJ's decision. The magistrate judge issued an R&R on
May 16, 2017, recommending that this court affirm the
ALJ's decision. Lawson filed objections to the R&R on
May 30, 2017, to which the Commissioner responded on June 5,
2017. The matter is now ripe for the court's review.
Lawson's medical history is not directly at issue here,
the court dispenses with a lengthy recitation thereof and
instead notes a few relevant facts. Lawson was born on
November 6, 1971, and was 40 years old on the alleged onset
date. She has a high school education, three years of
technical training, and past relevant work experience as a
computer indexer, data entry, and surgical technician.
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 her from
performing past relevant work; and (5) if so, “whether
the claimant is able to perform other work considering both
[her] remaining physical and mental capacities”
(defined by her residual functional capacity) and 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 Lawson was disabled
from September 18, 2012, through the date last insured,
December 31, 2014. The ALJ first determined that Lawson did
not engage in substantial gainful activity during the period
at issue. Tr. 20. At the second step, the ALJ found that
Lawson suffered from the following severe impairments: femur
fracture, status post-surgery; hypertension; obesity; and
degenerative disc disease in the lumbar spine. Tr. 20. At
step three, the ALJ found that Lawson'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. 24-25;
see 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpt. P, App'x 1.
Before reaching the fourth step, the ALJ determined Lawson
had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform light work as defined by 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b). Tr. 25. Specifically, the ALJ found that Lawson
could lift or carry up to twenty pounds occasionally and ten
pounds frequently; stand or walk for approximately six hours
in an eight-hour workday; sit (with normal breaks) for
approximately six hours in an eight-hour day; occasionally
climb ramps, stairs, ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; and
frequently balance and stoop; occasionally kneel, crouch, and
crawl; and avoid concentrated exposure to hazards. Tr. 25.
The ALJ found at step four that Lawson was capable of
performing past relevant work as a computer indexer, data
entry, and surgical technician. Tr. 34. Accordingly, the ALJ
found that Lawson was not disabled during the period at
issue. Tr. 35.
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 ...