United States District Court, D. South Carolina
Darryl K. Sturkin, Plaintiff,
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
J. GOSSETT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
social security matter is before the court for the third
time-and after six hearings before administrative law
judges-pursuant to Local Civil Rule 83.VII.02 (D.S.C.) and 28
U.S.C. § 636(c) for final adjudication, with the consent
of the parties, of the plaintiff's petition for judicial
review. The plaintiff, Darryl K. Sturkin, brought this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) to
obtain judicial review of a final decision of the defendant,
Acting Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”), denying his claims for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). Having
carefully considered the parties' submissions and the
applicable law, the court reverses the decision of the
Commissioner and remands the matter to the agency with
instructions to award benefits.
SECURITY DISABILITY GENERALLY
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A) and (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. §
404.1505(a); see also Blalock v.
Richardson, 483 F.2d 773 (4th Cir. 1973). The
regulations require the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) to consider, in sequence:
(1) whether the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful
(2) whether the claimant has a “severe”
(3) whether the claimant has an impairment that meets or
equals the requirements of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (“the Listings”),
and is thus presumptively disabled;
(4) whether the claimant can perform his past relevant work;
(5) whether the claimant's impairments prevent him from
doing any other kind of work.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4). If the ALJ can make a
determination that a claimant is or is not disabled at any
point in this process, review does not proceed to the next
this analysis, a claimant has the initial burden of showing
that he is unable to return to his past relevant work because
of his impairments. Once the claimant establishes a prima
facie case of disability, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner. To satisfy this burden, the Commissioner must
establish that the claimant has the residual functional
capacity, considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and impairments, to perform alternative jobs that
exist in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A);
see also McLain v. Schweiker, 715 F.2d 866, 868-69
(4th Cir. 1983); Hall v. Harris, 658 F.2d 260,
264-65 (4th Cir. 1981); Wilson v. Califano, 617 F.2d
1050, 1053 (4th Cir. 1980). The Commissioner may carry this
burden by obtaining testimony from a vocational expert.
Grant v. Schweiker, 699 F.2d 189, 192 (4th Cir.
2007, Sturkin applied for DIB, alleging disability beginning
April 15, 2005. Sturkin's application was denied
initially and upon reconsideration, and he requested a
hearing before an ALJ. A hearing was held via video
conference on October 8, 2009, at which Sturkin, who was
represented by Christi B. McDaniel, Esquire, appeared and
testified. The ALJ issued a decision on November 18, 2009
finding that Sturkin was not disabled. (Tr. 84-91.)
Appeals Council granted Sturkin's request for review and
issued an Order on March 22, 2010 vacating the hearing
decision and remanding the case for further proceedings.
second hearing was held via video conference on August 18,
2010, at which Sturkin appeared and testified. Sturkin
continued to be represented by Christi B. McDaniel, Esquire.
The ALJ issued a decision on September 23, 2010 finding that
Sturkin was disabled during the closed period from April 15,
2005 to March 28, 2007, with medical improvement thereafter.
(Tr. 11-22.) The Appeals Council denied Sturkin's request
for review, and Sturkin appealed to the United States
December 2010, during the pendency of his appeal, Sturkin
filed a new claim for DIB, alleging disability beginning
September 24, 2010. Sturkin's new application was denied
initially, upon reconsideration, and following a hearing
before an ALJ in an opinion issued July 9, 2012. (Tr.
1004-14.) On August 21, 2012, upon motion of the Commissioner
and with consent of Sturkin's counsel, the district court
vacated the ALJ's September 23, 2010 decision and
remanded Sturkin's claim for further consideration. (Tr.
1019.) Specifically, this matter was remanded for a de