United States District Court, D. South Carolina
Honorable Bruce H. Hendricks United States District Judge
an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g)
seeking judicial review of the Acting Commissioner of Social
Security's (“Commissioner”) final decision,
which denied Plaintiff Princess Wilson's
(“Plaintiff”) claim for disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”). The record includes the report
and recommendation (“Report”) of United States
Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett, which was made in
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1)(B) and Local
Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(a) (D.S.C.).
Report, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the Court affirm
the Commissioner's final decision denying benefits.
Plaintiff filed objections to the Report, and the
Commissioner filed a response to those objections.
See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) (providing that a
party may object, in writing, to a Magistrate Judge's
Report within 14 days after being served a copy). For the
reasons stated below, the Court adopts the Magistrate
Judge's Report and affirms the Commissioner's final
decision denying benefits.
applied for DIB in August of 2013, alleging disability due to
spurs in both feet and high blood pressure, beginning on July
29, 2013. Her applications were denied initially and upon
reconsideration, and she requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”). A hearing was
held on March 31, 2016, at which Plaintiff, who was
represented by counsel, appeared and testified. At the
hearing, Plaintiff amended her alleged onset date to March
11, 2014. The ALJ issued a decision on May 16, 2016,
concluding that Plaintiff was not disabled from her alleged
onset date through the date of the decision.
was born in 1955 and was 58 years old at the time of her
amended alleged onset date. She has a high school education
and past relevant work experience as a dietary aide in a
nursing home, a packer in a textile factory, and a grader at
a chicken processing plant.
The Magistrate Judge's Report
Court conducts a de novo review to those portions of the
Report to which a specific objection is made, and this Court
may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the
recommendations contained in the Report. 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1). Any written objection must specifically identify
the portion of the Report to which the objection is made and
the basis for the objection. Id.
Judicial Review of a Final Decision
federal judiciary plays a limited role in the administrative
scheme as established by the Social Security Act. Section
205(g) of the Act provides that “[t]he findings of the
Commissioner of Social Security, as to any fact, if supported
by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive . . . .”
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “Consequently, judicial review
. . . of a final decision regarding disability benefits is
limited to determining whether the findings are supported by
substantial evidence and whether the correct law was
applied.” Walls v. Barnhart, 296 F.3d 287, 290
(4th Cir. 2002). “Substantial evidence” is
evidence which a reasoning mind would accept as sufficient to
support a particular conclusion. It consists of more than a
mere scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less than a
preponderance. If there is evidence to justify a refusal to
direct a verdict were the case before a jury, then there is
Shively v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 987, 989 (4th Cir.
1984) (quoting Laws v. Celebreeze, 368 F.2d 640, 642
(4th Cir. 1966)). In assessing whether substantial evidence
exists, the reviewing court should not “undertake to
re-weigh conflicting evidence, make credibility
determinations, or substitute [its] judgment for that
of” the agency. Mastro v. Apfel, 270 F.3d 171,
176 (4th Cir. 2001) (alteration in original).
The Commissioner's Final Decision
Commissioner is charged with determining the existence of a
disability. The Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
301-1399, 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 result in death or
which has lasted or can expected to last for a continuous
period of not less than 12 months . . . .” 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(A). This determination involves the
following five-step inquiry:
[The first step is] whether the claimant engaged in
substantial gainful employment. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b).
If not, the analysis continues to determine whether, based
upon the medical evidence, the claimant has a severe
impairment. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c) If the claimed
impairment is sufficiently severe, the third step considers
whether the claimant has an impairment that equals or exceeds
in severity one or more of the impairments listed in Appendix
I of the regulations. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d); 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, subpart P, App. I. If so, the claimant is disabled.
If not, the next inquiry considers if the impairment prevents
the claimant from returning to past work. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(e); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a) If the answer is in
the affirmative, the final consideration looks to whether the
impairment precludes that claimant from performing other
Mastro, 270 F.3d at 177 (citing 20 C.F.R. §
claimant fails to establish any of the first four steps,
review does not proceed to the next step. Hunter v.
Sullivan, 993 F.2d 31, 35 (4th Cir. 1993). The burden of
production and proof remains with the claimant through the
fourth step. However, if the claimant successfully reaches
step five, then the burden shifts to the Commissioner to
provide evidence of a significant number of jobs in the
national economy that the claimant could perform, taking into