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Washington v. Berryhill

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

January 1, 2018

Robert Antonio Washington, 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 Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended (42 U.S.C. 405(g)) to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his claim for disability insurance benefits and disabled adult child's benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act.

         ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

         The plaintiff applications for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and disabled adult child benefits (“DAC”)[2] on March 20, 2014. The claims were denied initially and on reconsideration. The plaintiff also filed an application for supplemental security income (“SSI”) benefits and was found to be disabled as of the filing date of March 3, 2014 (Tr. 12). His alleged onset date of disability is January 1992 (Tr. 67, 74). The plaintiff's date last insured for purposes of DIB was June 30, 2004 (Tr. 121). On July 30, 2014, the plaintiff requested a hearing on his DIB and DAC claims. The administrative law judge (“ALJ”), before whom the plaintiff appeared at a hearing on February 19, 2015, considered the case de novo and, on April 23, 2015, issued a decision finding that the plaintiff was not under a disability as defined in the Social Security Act, as amended (Tr. 12-19). The ALJ's finding became the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security when the Appeals Council denied the plaintiff's request for review on August 10, 2016 (Tr. 5-7). 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) Born on October 2, 1981, the claimant had not attained age 22 as of January 1, 1992, the alleged onset date (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.102 and 404.350(a)(5)).
(2) The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 1, 1992, the alleged onset date (20 C.F.R. § 404.1571 et seq.).
(3) Prior to attaining age 22, the claimant has the following severe combination of impairments: borderline intellectual functioning and substance abuse (20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c)).
(4) Prior to attaining age 22, and prior to the date last insured, the claimant did 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, and 404.1526).
(5) After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that, prior to attaining age 22, and prior to the date last insured, the claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) except he is limited to understanding, remembering, and carrying out simple instructions in jobs with no ongoing public interaction.
(6) The claimant has no past relevant work (20 C.F.R. § 404.1565).
(7) The claimant was born on October 2, 1981, and was 10 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date (20 C.F.R. § 404.1563).
(8) The claimant has a limited education and is able to communicate in English (20 C.F.R. § 404.1564).
(9) Transferability of job skills is not an issue because the claimant does not have past relevant work (20 C.F.R. § 404.1568).
(10) Prior to attaining age 22, 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 claimant can perform (20 C.F.R. § 404.1569 and 404.1569(a)).
(11) The claimant was not under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, at any time prior to October 1, 2003, the date he attained age 22, on June 30, 2004, the date last insured (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.350(a)(5) and 404.1520(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), 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).

         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. If an individual is found not disabled at any step, further inquiry is unnecessary. Id. § 404.1520(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. ...


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