United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Orangeburg Division
BRYAN HARWELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Duron Holmes (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), of a final decision of
the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the
“Commissioner”) denying Plaintiff's claim for
supplemental security income (“SSI”) pursuant to
the Social Security Act (the “Act”). The matter
is before the Court for review of the Report and
Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Kaymani D.
West, made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and
Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2) for the District of South
Carolina. The Magistrate Judge recommends the Court affirm
the Commissioner's decision. [ECF #17]. Plaintiff filed
objections to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation. [ECF
#19]. Defendant responded to these objections. [ECF #22].
Findings and Procedural History
was born on June 2, 1965 and was fifty years old on the date
of the ALJ's decision. He alleges an onset disability
date starting on May 1, 2012');">12. [ECF #12');">12, p. 3]. Plaintiff
alleges disability due to chronic back pain, pain in his
right arm and wrist, anxiety, depression, dizziness when
standing, diabetes, and hypothyroidism. [ECF #10-7, Ex. B2E].
Plaintiff also alleges mental impairments, including anxiety,
depression, vertigo, pain, and worsening issues with balance.
According to Plaintiff's medical records and testimony,
it appears that during October of 2008, Plaintiff had a CT
scan of his right wrist which showed degenerative changes, as
well as degenerative changes in the disc spaces in his lower
back and thoracic spine. [ECF #10-9, Ex. B1F]. Plaintiff
continued to experience back pain during treatment. Dr.
Stephen Worsham noted in his records that Plaintiff suffered
a non-displaced T12');">12 fracture due to a car accident in 2008.
[ECF #10-9, Ex. B1F]. Plaintiff's medical records further
indicate he suffered from intermittent psoriasis and
arthritis of the knees, hips, and wrist. [ECF #10-9, Ex.
B1F]. Lab results from August of 2011 indicate a onset of
hypothyroidism. [ECF #10-9, Ex. B1F]. In 2012');">12, Dr. Worsham
continued to treat Plaintiff for issues related to these
medical problems. [ECF #10-9, Ex. B1F]. Dr. Worsham later
assessed Plaintiff as being morbidly obese and noted that
Plaintiff had not been compliant in monitoring and recording
his blood sugars or adhering to his dietary restrictions,
although he had previously lost some weight. [ECF #10-9, Ex.
B1F]. On July 27, 2012');">12, an MRI revealed degenerative changes
in Plaintiff's back and an old fracture of the L1
vertebral body.[ECF #10-9, Ex. B1F]. At a follow up visit a
few months later, Plaintiff described difficulties related to
his arthritis, and Dr. Worsham noted that Plaintiff was not
compliant with checking his blood sugars, though Plaintiff
was borderline diabetic. [ECF #10-9, Ex. B1F]. On January 22,
2013, Plaintiff underwent an oximetry study after having been
previously evaluated by Dr. Gordon Early. Dr. Early diagnosed
Plaintiff with obstructive sleep apnea, chronic back pain,
and polyarthritis. [ECF #10-10, Ex. B13F]. Plaintiff's
oximetry study qualified him for oxygen using Medicare
guidelines. [ECF #10-10, Ex. B13F].
Early provided a statement indicating that he thought
Plaintiff could do work “more substantial” than
intermittent sedentary work. Dr. Early further indicated that
Plaintiff would most likely qualify for a CPAP machine if he
underwent a formal sleep study, and if his obstructive sleep
apnea were treated, his somnolence and impaired mentation
would improve. [ECF #10-10, Ex. B15F]. On November 14, 2013,
Dr. Benjamin Bailey evaluated Plaintiff and noted his
previous history included diabetes mellitus, hypertension,
hypothyroidism, hyperlipidemia, psoriasis, chronic pain, and
arthritis. [ECF #10-10, Ex. B6F]. Dr. Bailey continued to
treat Plaintiff through 2014 for issues related to psoriasis
and continued pain in his back, wrist and shoulder. Dr.
Bailey completed a statement form dated March 25, 2015,
indicating a primary disability diagnosis due to chronic pain
and that his disability was “permanent.” [ECF
#10-10, Ex. B7F]. He further provided a letter dated October
6, 2015, explaining that he has treated Plaintiff since
November 2013 and diagnosed him with chronic pain. Dr. Bailey
also indicated that Plaintiff's financial situation made
it difficult for him to arrange a sleep study. [ECF #10-10,
Ex. B11F]. Dr. Stuart Barnes performed a consultative
examination of Plaintiff and diagnosed him with chronic back
pain, obesity, anxiety, depression, and psoriasis. [ECF
#10-9, Ex. B3F]. Dr. Rebecca L. Sorrow performed a mental
status evaluation at the Commissioner's request. Dr.
Sorrow diagnosed Plaintiff with persistent depressive
disorder and alcohol dependence in sustained remission. [ECF
#10-9, Ex. B4F]. At the hearing, Plaintiff testified that he
uses a walking cane when he goes to Walmart to pick up his
medications. He further testified that he tries to help
around the house when his back is not causing him pain, that
he no longer leaves the house to shop, and that he spends his
time watching television or using his laptop. He testified
that his pain is triggered by sitting or standing too long.
He also described his issues with depression.
August 22, 2013, Plaintiff protectively filed for SSI under
Title XVI of the Act. The Social Security Administration
denied Plaintiff's application initially and on
reconsideration, so Plaintiff requested a hearing before the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). The ALJ denied
Plaintiff's claim on May 10, 2016, finding that Plaintiff
was not under a disability as defined in the Social Security
Act, as amended. [ECF #10-2, R. 45]. The ALJ's findings
were as follows:
(1) The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since August 22, 2013, the application date. (20 CFR
416.971 et seq.).
(2) The claimant has the following severe impairments:
lumbosacral degenerative disc disease with spondylolisthesis;
status post fracture of L1 vertebral body; right wrist
degenerative joint disease and status post right arm open
reduction internal fixation (ORIF); obesity; psoriasis; sleep
apnea; reactive airway disease; intellectual disorder;
anxiety; and, depression (20 CFR 416.920©).
(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
C.F.R. 416.967(b) with the following additional limitations.
He can sit or stand at will consistent with the exertional
level while remaining at the workstation, provided that each
period of sitting or standing is at least fifteen minutes. He
requires a handheld assistive device (such as a cane) to
ambulate over narrow, slippery, or erratically moving
surfaces, or for ascending or descending slopes, but the
handheld assistive device would not be necessary for
standing. He can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but
cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. He can
occasionally stoop, crouch, crawl, kneel, and balance. He can
have no exposure to workplace hazards such as unprotected
heights and moving mechanical parts. He can frequently reach,
both overhead and in all other directions, with the dominant
right upper extremity. He can frequently handle, finger, and
feel with the dominant right hand. He can frequently use hand
controls on the right. He can occasionally use foot controls
bilaterally. He can have occasional exposure to atmospheric
conditions. He can have no open exposure to toxic or caustic
chemicals. He can frequently interact with supervisors and
coworkers and occasionally interact with the public. He is
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, workplace changes. He would
be off task a maximum of ten percent of the workday.
(5) The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work
(20 CFR 416.965).
(6) The claimant was born on June 2, 1965 and was 48 years
old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on
the date the application was filed. The claimant subsequently
changed age category to closely approaching advanced age (20
(7) The claimant has a limited 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 ...