United States District Court, D. South Carolina
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
BRISTOW MARCHANT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Plaintiff filed the complaint in this action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner wherein he was denied disability
benefits. This case was referred to the undersigned for a
report and recommendation pursuant to Local Rule
applied for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) on February
4, 2013 (protective filing date), alleging disability since
January 7, 2012 due to deep vein thrombosis(“DVT”)/blood clot, chronic
post thrombotic syndrome, arthritis, diabetes, and fatigue.
(R.pp. 139, 167, 170). Plaintiffs application was denied
initially and upon reconsideration. (R.pp. 73, 87). Plaintiff
then requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ), which was held on July 29, 2015. (R.pp. 30-58). The
ALJ thereafter denied Plaintiffs claim in a decision dated
October 7, 2015. (R.pp. 11-23). The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff s request for review, thereby making the
determination of the ALJ the final decision of the
then filed this action in United States District Court,
asserting that there is not substantial evidence to support
the ALJ's decision, and that the decision should be
reversed and remanded for further consideration, or for an
outright award of benefits. The Commissioner contends that
the decision to deny benefits is supported by substantial
evidence, and that Plaintiff was properly found not to be
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the Court's scope of review is
limited to (1) whether the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence, and (2) whether the
ultimate conclusions reached by the Commissioner are legally
correct under controlling law. Hays v. Sullivan, 907
F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990); Richardson v.
Califano, 574 F.2d 802, 803 (4th Cir. 1978); Myers
v. Califano, 611 F.2d 980, 982-983 (4th Cir. 1980). If
the record contains substantial evidence to support the
Commissioner's decision, it is the court's duty to
affirm the decision. Substantial evidence has been defined
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
refusal to direct a verdict were the case before a jury, then
there is “substantial evidence.”
Hays, 907 F.2d at 1456 (citing Laws v.
Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640 (4th Cir. 1966)); see
also, Hepp v. Astrue, 511 F.3d 798, 806
(8th Cir. 2008)[Noting that the substantial
evidence standard is even “less demanding than the
preponderance of the evidence standard”].
Court lacks the authority to substitute its own judgment for
that of the Commissioner. Laws, 368 F.2d at 642.
"[T]he language of [405(g)] precludes a de novo judicial
proceeding and requires that the court uphold the
[Commissioner's] decision even should the court disagree
with such decision as long as it is supported by substantial
evidence." Blalock v. Richardson, 483 F.2d 773,
775 (4th Cir. 1972).
has a history of DVT dating back to 2002. (R.pp. 345, 348).
However, she does not contend that this condition became
disabling until January 2012, following foot surgery in
December 2011. After this surgery, Plaintiff developed DVT in
her left leg and was hospitalized from January 7 to January
15, 2012. (R.pp. 354-357). On March 15, 2012, Dr. Michael
Tollison of Piedmont Orthopedic Associates opined that
Plaintiff was better and wearing support hose. However, he
noted that she was limited in her ability to stand and walk.
2012, records from Self Regional Healthcare noted that
Plaintiff was prescribed physical therapy due to Plantar
Fibromatosis, ankle joint pain, general muscle weakness,
difficulty walking, pain in her left lower extremity, and
joint stiffness of the ankle. (R.p. 255). On June 7, 2012,
Dr. John Holman saw Plaintiff for DVT with chronic swelling
in her left leg. (R.p. 434). Dr. Holman opined that Plaintiff
had venous stasis,  and expressed concern that she may get
postphlebitic syndrome. (R.p. 434). Plaintiff continued to see
Dr. Homan over the course of the year. (R.pp. 425-431,
473-475). On May 21, 2013, Dr. Holman opined that Plaintiff
had swelling in her left leg due to chronic venous stasis of
the left lower extremity secondary to illofemoral deep venous
thrombosis in the left leg. (R.p. 478). On May 28, 2013,
Plaintiff completed an Adult Function Report in which she
stated that sitting for prolonged periods of time caused
swelling in her leg, that she is limited in the amount of
time that she can stand in one place due to leg swelling, and
that walking also causes swelling. (R.pp. 190-191).
19, 2013, Dr. Tony Rana noted that Plaintiff was wearing a
compression stocking on her left leg and had some swelling on
her knee. (R.p. 504). Dr. Rama diagnosed Plaintiff with
post-thrombotic syndrome of the left leg with symptoms of
pain, some edema, and no history of pulmonary embolism. (R.p.
505). On July 30, 2013, Dr. Holman noted that Plaintiff had
edema with varicosities in the legs with left ankle pitting
edema, left pretibial pitting edema, and left knee pitting
edema. (R.p. 514). On August 23, 2013, Dr. Holman opined that
Plaintiff had chronic swelling in her left leg following a
second episode of DVT. Dr. Holman noted that Plaintiff was on
chronic Coumadin, had venous incompetence in her left leg,
and was at risk of ulceration in her left leg if she did not
wear compression hose. (R.p. 431). On October 14, 2013, Dr.
Holman reported that Plaintiff had some left ankle pitting
edema. (R.p. 674). On October 18, 2013, Plaintiff's
physical examination showed venous insufficiency, and she was
diabetic. (R.p. 428). Dr. Holman opined following an
examination on December 18, 2014, that Plaintiff's
extremities for edema and/or varicosities was abnormal with
left pretibial pitting edema. (R.p. 763). On January 20,
2014, Dr. Holman reported that Plaintiff continued to have
left ankle, left pretibial, and left knee pitting edema. She
was ambulating with an abnormal gait limping on the right.
(R.p. 731). On February 10, 2015, Dr. Holman also reported
left pretibial pitting edema. (R.p. 774). In June 2015, a
scan showed chronic thrombus. (R.p. 853).
hearing before the ALJ, Plaintiff testified that her left leg
needs to be elevated periodically throughout the day. (R.pp.
39-40). She also testified that she can stand up for only
15-20 minutes, 30 minutes maximum, prior to having to get off
of her leg and trying to elevate it. (R.p. 40).
Plaintiff's counsel also submitted photographs at the
hearing for the ALJ to review, which he stated showed
swelling in Plaintiff's knee and leg. (R.p. 57).
who was forty two (42) years old on January 7, 2012 (when she
alleges she became disabled), has a college education and
past relevant work experience as a case worker in a variety
of agencies, including an alcohol rehabilitation program, a
program for children with special needs, and a center for
treatment of injuries to the head and spinal cord. (R.pp.
36-38). In order to be considered "disabled" within
the meaning of the Social Security Act, Plaintiff must show
that she has an impairment or combination of impairments
which prevent her from engaging in all substantial gainful
activity for which she is qualified by her ...