United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
GORDON BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Plaintiff, Autumn Garner, through counsel, brought this
action to obtain judicial review of an unfavorable final
administrative decision denying benefits on her April 16,
2013 application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security
Act (“Act”). This matter was referred to the
United States Magistrate Judge for a Report and
Recommendation pursuant to Local Rule 73.02(B)(2)(a), D.S.C.,
and Title 28, United States Code, Section 636(b)(1)(B).
Having carefully considered the record, including the
parties' briefs, the administrative record and the
applicable authority, for the reasons stated herein, the
undersigned recommends that the Commissioner's decision
History and ALJ's Findings
Plaintiff was born on May 3, 1962, and was 50 years old on
the alleged onset of disability date, October 1, 2005. (R.
197.) The Plaintiff filed SSI on April 16, 2013.
(Id.) The Plaintiff claimed SSI due to arthritis,
fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, irritable bowel
syndrome, and spinal stenosis. (R. 230.) The Plaintiff's
claim was initially denied and denied on reconsideration. (R.
144-45, 155-56.) The Plaintiff requested a hearing, which was
held on September 28, 2015. (R. 44.) The Plaintiff was
represented by counsel. The Plaintiff testified at the
hearing, as well as a vocational expert (“VE”).
The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) issued a
Decision denying SSI on January 26, 2016, and it is now the
Commissioner's final decision for purposes of judicial
review. (R. 12-37.) The Plaintiff filed an appeal to the
Appeals Council, which denied review. (R. 1-3.)
making the determination that the Plaintiff was not entitled
to benefits, the Commissioner adopted the following findings
of the ALJ's Decision:
(1) The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since March 29, 2013, the application date (20 CFR
416.971 et seq.).
(2) The claimant has the following severe impairments: lumbar
and lumbosacral degenerative disc disease and sacroiliitis;
carpal tunnel syndrome; irritable bowel syndrome (IBS);
chronic obstructive bronchitis; status post revision
septorhinoplasty; borderline obesity; anxiety; depression;
and polysubstance abuse in partial remission. (20 CFR
(3) 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 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
(4) After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 416.967(b) with the following additional limitations. The
claimant cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. The
claimant can frequently climb ramps and stairs and can
frequently balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. The
claimant can have no exposure to unprotected heights. The
claimant can frequently feel, finger, and handle bilaterally,
and the claimant can frequently use both hand and foot
controls bilaterally. The claimant can have frequent exposure
to atmospheric conditions. The claimant can have frequent
interaction with supervisors and co-workers and occasional
interaction with the public. The claimant would be able to
understand, remember, and carry out simple one or two step
instructions or tasks, or detailed but uninvolved
instructions or tasks, free of fast paced or team dependent
production requirements, involving simple work-related
decisions and occasional, if any, work place changes. The
claimant can have no open exposure to accessible alcoholic
substances such as work in a bar, brewery, or a liquor or
beer distribution warehouse. The claimant can have no open
exposure to controlled substances or prescription
medications, such as work in a law enforcement evidence
facility, forensic lab, pharmaceutical manufacturing plant,
medical facility or pharmacy.
The claimant would be off task a maximum of ten percent of
the workday, and the claimant would miss a maximum of one day
of work per month.
(5) The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work
(20 CFR 416.965).
(6) The claimant was born on May 3, 1962 and was 50 years
old, which is defined as an individual closely approaching
advanced age, on the date the application was filed (20 CFR
(7) The claimant has at least a high school education and is
able to communicate in English (20 CFR 416.964).
(8) Transferability of job skills is not material to the
determination of disability because using the Medical
Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the
claimant is “not disabled, ” whether or not the
claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20
CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
(9) 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 the claimant can perform (20 CFR 416.969 and
(10) The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, since March 29, 2013, the date
the application was filed (20 CFR 416.920(g)).
provides that SSI disability benefits shall be available for
aged, blind, or disabled persons who have income and
resources below a specific amount. 42 U.S.C. § 1381
et. seq.; 20 C.F.R. § 416.110.
“Disability” is defined in the Act 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 last for a continuous
period of not less than twelve months.” 42 U.S.C.
facilitate a uniform and efficient processing of disability
claims, the 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 which equals
an illness contained in the Administration's official
Listing of Impairments found at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, Appendix 1; (4) has an impairment which prevents past
relevant work; and (5) has an impairment which prevents him
from doing substantial gainful employment. See 20
C.F.R. § 416.920; see also Brown v. Comm'r,
873 F.3d 251, 254-55 (4th Cir. 2017). If an individual is
found not disabled at any step, further inquiry is
unnecessary. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920; see
alsoHall v. Harris, 658 F.2d 260, 264 (4th
Cir. 1981). The plaintiff “bears the burden of
production and proof during the first four steps of the
inquiry.” Pass v. Chater, 65 F.3d ...