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 Section 1631(c)(3)
of the Social Security Act, as amended (42 U.S.C.
1383(c)(3)), to obtain judicial review of a final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security denying his claim for
supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act.
plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security
income (“SSI”) benefits on October 21, 2013,
alleging disability since June 21, 2013. The application was
denied initially and on reconsideration by the Social
Security Administration. On August 18, 2014, the plaintiff
requested a hearing. The administrative law judge
(“ALJ”), before whom the plaintiff and Carroll H.
Crawford, an impartial vocational expert, appeared on March
1, 2016, considered the case de novo, and on March
22, 2016, 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 the plaintiff's request for review on February 27,
2017. The plaintiff then filed this action for judicial
making the determination that the plaintiff is not entitled
to benefits, the Commissioner has adopted the following
findings of the ALJ:
(1) The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since October 21, 2013, the application date (20
C.F.R. § 416.971 et. seq.).
(2) The claimant has the following severe impairments:
history of syncope, anxiety, depression, and panic disorder
with agoraphobia (20 C.F.R. § 416.920(c)).
(3) The claimant also has the following non-severe
impairments: back and neck pain, joint pain, gastroesophageal
reflux disease (GERD) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) (20
C.F.R. § 416.921).
(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. §§ 416.920(d), 416.925,
(5) After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that claimant has the residual functional
capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional
levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: He
can never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds, and he must
avoid even moderate exposure to hazards. He can perform
simple, routine tasks for two hours at a time; in a work
environment free of fast paced production requirements;
involving only simple, work-related decisions; with few, if
any, work place changes. He can have no interaction with the
public and is limited to occasional interaction with
co-workers and no tandem tasks.
(6) The claimant has no past relevant work (20 C.F.R. §
(7) The claimant was born on July 14, 1974, and was 39 years
old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on
the date the application was filed (20 C.F.R. §
(8) The claimant has a limited education and is able to
communicate in English (20 C.F.R. § 416.964)
(9) Transferability of job skills is not an issue because the
claimant does not have past relevant work (20 C.F.R. §
(10) Considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20
C.F.R. §§ 416.969, 416.969(a)).
(11) The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, since October 21, 2013, the date
the application was filed (20 C.F.R. § 416.920(g)).
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. § 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. § 416.920. If an
individual is found not disabled at any step, further inquiry
is unnecessary. Id. § 416.920(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 is supported by substantial evidence.
Blalock v. Richardson, 483 F.2d 773, 775
(4th Cir. 1972).
Before the ALJ
plaintiff was 38 years old on his alleged disability onset
date (June 21, 2013) and 41 years old on the date of the
ALJ's decision (March 22, 2016). He has an eighth grade
education and worked in the past as a cook, laborer, and
stocker, all more than 15 years before he applied for
benefits (Tr. 48, 61, 72, 216-24); accordingly, he has no
past relevant work as defined in the regulations (Tr. 48).
See 20 C.F. R. § 416.965(a).
November 8, 2012, the plaintiff was treated in the AnMed
Health Emergency Room (“ER”) in Anderson, South
Carolina, following a car accident. He had neck and lower
back pain from the accident and was diagnosed with cervical
strain (Tr. 327-29).
December 26, 2012, the plaintiff was evaluated in the ER for
complaints of neck, shoulder, and back pain following another
car accident. The plaintiff reported that his head rocked
back and forth and then he became dizzy and lightheaded. He
was diagnosed with cervical and muscle strain and prescribed
Ultram and Parafon Forte. The plaintiff noted that his
discomfort had not improved, and he ...