United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division
REPORT OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE
F. McDonald United States Magistrate Judge
case is before the court for a report and recommendation
pursuant to Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(a) (D.S.C.),
concerning the disposition of Social Security cases in this
District, and Title 28, United States Code, Section
plaintiff brought this action pursuant to Sections 205(g) and
1631(c)(3) of the Social Security Act, as amended (42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3)), to obtain judicial
review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security denying her claims for disability insurance benefits
and supplemental security income benefits under Titles II and
XVI of the Social Security Act.
plaintiff filed applications for disability insurance
benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income
("SSI") benefits on May 20 and December 1, 2013,
respectively, alleging she became unable to work on April 30,
2012. The applications were denied initially and upon
reconsideration by the Social Security Administration. On
December 16, 2013, the plaintiff requested a hearing. The
administrative law judge ("ALJ"), before whom the
plaintiff and Thomas C. Neil, an impartial vocational expert,
appeared on February 6, 2015, considered the case de
novo, and on March17, 2015, found that the plaintiff was
not under a disability as defined in the Social Security Act,
as amended. The ALJ's finding became the final decision
of the Commissioner of Social Security when the Appeals
Council denied review on August 18, 2016. The plaintiff then
filed this action for judicial review.
making the determination that the plaintiff is not entitled
to benefits, the Commissioner has adopted the following
findings of the ALJ:
(1) The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through June 30, 2017.
(2) The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since April 30, 2012, the alleged onset date (20
C.F.R. §§404.1571 et seq. and 416.971
(3) The claimant has the following severe impairments:
diabetes mellitus, hepatitis C, and bipolar disorder (20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
(4) The claimant does not have an impairment or combination
of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525,
404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
(5) After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that, the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except she
must avoid all exposure to industrial hazards. She cannot
climb or crawl. She is limited to work in a low stress
setting with no more than occasional changes in the setting
or more than occasional decisionmaking. Furthermore, the
claimant is limited to no interaction with the general public
and no more than occasional interaction with coworkers and
(6) The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work
(20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1565 and 416.965).
(7) The claimant was born on February 18, 1964, and was 48
years old, which is defined as an individual closely
approaching advanced age, on the alleged disability onset
date (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1563 and 416.963).
(8) The claimant has at least a high school education and is
able to communicate in English (20 C.F.R. §§
404.1564 and 416.964).
(9) Transferability of job skills is not material to the
determination of disability because the Medical-Vocational
Rules support a finding that the claimant is "not
disabled, " whether or not the claimant has transferable
job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
(10) Considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that the claimant can perform (20 C.F.R. §§
404.1569, 404.1569(a), 416.969, and 416.969(a)).
(11) The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from April 30, 2012, through the
date of this decision (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g) and
only issues before the court are whether proper legal
standards were applied and whether the final decision of the
Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence.
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A), (d)(5) and §
1382c(a)(3)(A), (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. §§
facilitate a uniform and efficient processing of disability
claims, the Social Security Act has by regulation reduced the
statutory definition of "disability" to a series of
five sequential questions. An examiner must consider whether
the claimant (1) is engaged in substantial gainful activity,
(2) has a severe impairment, (3) has an impairment that meets
or medically equals an impairment contained in the Listing of
Impairments found at 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, (4)
can perform his past relevant work, and (5) can perform other
work. Id. §§404.1520, 416.920. If an
individual is found not disabled at any step, further inquiry
is unnecessary. Id. §§ 404.1520(a)(4),
claimant must make a prima facie case of disability
by showing he is unable to return to his past relevant work
because of his impairments. Grant v. Schweiker, 699
F.2d 189, 191 (4th Cir. 1983). Once an individual
has established a prima facie case of disability,
the burden shifts to the Commissioner to establish that the
plaintiff can perform alternative work and that such work
exists in the national economy. Id. (citing 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A)). The Commissioner may carry this
burden by obtaining testimony from a vocational expert.
Id. at 192.
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). "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." Id. 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. Consequently, even if the
court disagrees with Commissioner's decision, the court
must uphold it if it supported by substantial evidence.
Blalock v. Richardson, 483 F.2d 773, 775
(4th Cir. 1972).
plaintiff was 48 years old on her alleged disability onset
date (April 30, 2012) and 51 years old on the date of the
ALJ's decision (March 17, 2016). She has a high school
equivalency degree (Tr. 46) and past relevant work as a
culinary manager (Tr. 37).
plaintiff saw her primary care physician, Christopher
Wimberly Jr., M.D., of Summerville Family Practice on May 2,
2012, for diabetes and occasional hypoglycemia. Assessment
was diabetes mellitus type 2, hepatitis C, alcoholism,
hypercholesterolemia, and generalized anxiety. Metformin was
decreased. A future sleep study would be considered for
chronic insomnia (Tr. 273).
plaintiff returned to Dr. Wimberly on August 1, 2012, with
increased stress secondary to finances and losing her job.
Dr. Wimberly noted that the plaintiff was mildly anxious and
elevated (Tr. 272).
February 5, 2013, the plaintiff returned to Dr. Wimberly. She
had recently moved back to South Carolina from New Jersey.
She had trouble dealing with changes and described periods of
low mood and then periods of feeling great. On physical
examination, she was noted to be overweight. Dr. Wimberly