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 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 under Title II of the Social
plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”) on August 9, 2013, alleging that
he became unable to work on June 23, 2013. The application
was denied initially and on reconsideration by the Social
Security Administration. On February 27, 2014, the plaintiff
requested a hearing. The administrative law judge
(“ALJ”), before whom the plaintiff and Arthur F.
Schmitt, Ph.D., an impartial vocational expert, appeared on
October 21, 2015, considered the case de novo and,
on November 19, 2015, found that the plaintiff was not under
a disability as defined in the Social Security Act, as
amended (Tr. 21-34). 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 15, 2017 (Tr. 1-6). The plaintiff then filed this
action for judicial review.
making the determination that the plaintiff is not entitled
to benefits, the Commissioner has adopted the following
findings of the ALJ:
(1) Claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2017.
(2) Claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since June 23, 2013, the alleged onset date (20 C.F.R. §
404.1571 et seq).
(3) Claimant has the following severe impairments: hearing
loss not treated with cochlear implantation, diabetes
mellitus, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
(20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c)).
(4) 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,
(5) After careful consideration of the entire record, I find
that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R § 404.1567(c)
with some additional limitations. Specifically, claimant can
lift and carry up to 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds
frequently. He can sit, stand, and walk frequently. He can
work in an environment that does not require fine hearing.
Claimant can have no exposure to loud noise. He can have no
concentrated exposure to pulmonary irritants.
(6) Claimant is capable of performing past relevant work as a
security guard. This work does not require the performance of
work-related activities precluded by claimant's residual
functional capacity (20 C.F.R. § 404.1565).
(7) Claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in
the Social Security Act, from June 23, 2013, through the date
of this decision (20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f)).
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. § 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. §
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).
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).
plaintiff was born on May 19, 1962, and was 51 years old on
the alleged onset date of disability (June 23, 2013) and 53
years old on the date of the ALJ's decision (November 19,
2015). The plaintiff has a high school education, served four
years in the United States ...