United States District Court, D. South Carolina
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
J. Gossett UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
social security matter is before the court for a Report and
Recommendation pursuant to Local Civil Rule 83.VII.02
(D.S.C.). The plaintiff, Karen Danette Trent, 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
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) 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 reversed and remanded
for further proceedings as set forth below.
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).
2012, Trent applied for DIB and SSI, alleging disability
beginning January 1, 2009. Trent's applications were
denied initially and upon reconsideration, and she requested
a hearing before an ALJ. A hearing was held on September 11,
2014 at which Trent, who was represented by Beatrice Whitten,
Esquire, appeared and testified. After hearing testimony from
Trent's sister as well as a vocational expert, the ALJ
issued a decision on December 24, 2014 concluding that Trent
was not disabled from January 1, 2009 through the date of the
decision. (Tr. 9-19.)
was born in 1971 and was thirty-seven years old at the time
of her alleged disability onset date. (Tr. 18.) She has a
high school education, and has past relevant work experience
as customer service representative and house keeper. (Tr.
196.) Trent alleged disability due to chronic obstructive