Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Barnes v. Berryhil

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division

December 1, 2017

Allison Whitney Barnes, Plaintiff,
v.
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          REPORT OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          Kevin F. McDonald United States Magistrate Judge

         This 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 636(b)(1)(B).[1]

         The 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.

         ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

         The 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.

         In 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 et seq.).
(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 supervisors.
(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, Appendix 2).
(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 416.920(g)).

         The 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.

         APPLICABLE LAW

         Under 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. §§ 404.1505(a), 416.905(a).

         To 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), 416.920(a)(4).

         A 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.

         Pursuant 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).

         EVIDENCE PRESENTED

         The 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).

         The 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).

         The 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).

         On 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 opined ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.