United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division
Bryan Harwell United States District Judge.
Tracy Culpepper has brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) seeking judicial review of the final decision
of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her claim for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”). This
matter is now before the Court for review of the Report and
Recommendation (“R & R”) of United States
Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett, made in accordance with 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rules 73.02(B)(2)(a)
and 83.VII.02 (D.S.C.). [ECF # 14]. The Magistrate Judge
recommends that the Court affirm the decision of the
Commissioner. This Court has thoroughly reviewed the record
in this case and now issues the following Order.
of Facts and Procedural History
Court is tasked with reviewing the denial of Plaintiff's
application for disability benefits. Plaintiff applied for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) on
September 12, 2013, alleging a disability date of April 6,
2012 due to ulnar nerve damage in both arms. [ECF #9-6, Ex.
2E]. Briefly stated, Plaintiff's medical history in the
record dating back to July 2007 reveal that she has been
treated for many years for problems associated with her upper
extremities. In 2012, Plaintiff began treating at Upstate
Bone and Joint, where she was evaluated for complaints of
bilateral arm pain and numbness. [ECF #9-11, Ex. 16F]. She
was seen by Robert Finley, M.D. in 2012 who ordered a nerve
conduction study after her x-rays returned normal results. An
MRI on her cervical spine could not be completed due to
discomfort but results should C4-5 had very mild diffuse
annular disc bulge with no evidence of neural impingement.
[ECF #9-11, Ex. 16F]. A few months later in 2012, Dr. Finley
performed a left carpal tunnel release and medical
epicondylectomy on the left elbow with ulnar nerve
decompression. [ECF #9-11, Ex. 16F]. At her follow up
appointment, Dr. Finley recommended she go back to work
approximately one month later. [ECF #9-11, Ex. 16F]. In
November of 2012, Plaintiff underwent right carpal tunnel
release, decompression of the ulnar nerve, and medial
epicondylectomy. At a follow up visit from this surgery, Dr.
Finley's physician's assistant diagnosed Plaintiff
with carpal tunnel syndrome and tardy ulnar nerve palsy. He
prescribed Plaintiff Tramadol and placed her on light duty.
January 17, 2013, Thomas J. Fox, M.D. evaluated Plaintiff for
complaints of neck pain and bilateral arm pain.
Plaintiff's nerve conduction studies were within normal
limits, though her EMG showed evidence of ulnar neuropathy at
the elbow bilaterally. A day later, Dr. Finley evaluated
Plaintiff for complaints of pain in right elbow, neck pain
and numbness in the arm and forearm and dorsum of her hand.
Her examination revealed pain with rain of motion of her
neck. Dr. Finley ordered an MRI of her cervical spine and a
repeat EMG. [ECF #9-7, Ex. 4F]. On February 14, 2013, Dr.
Finley's notes indicate that Plaintiff's MRI results
were normal but an EMG showed an abnormality with evidence of
ulnar neuropathy at the elbow bilaterally. Dr. Finley
diagnosed arm pain and numbness of arm and referred Plaintiff
to neurology. [ECF #9-7, Ex. 4F]. On March 26, 2013,
Plaintiff was evaluated by L. Edwin Rudisill, M.D. whose
notes indicate tingling and numbness in the fingers
bilaterally with Spurling's test, and handsd showing
decreased light touch sensation. The notes further indicate
Plaintiff tested positive for Tinel's test but had good
range of motion in her joints. Dr. Rudisill diagnosed
Plaintiff with persistent numbness and tingling in the ulnar
distribution. [ECF #9-8, Ex. 9F]. In June of 2013, Dr.
Rudisill evaluated Plaintiff for complaints of persistent
bilateral elbow pain. Nerve conduction studies showed
evidence of persistent ulnar neuropathy. [ECF #9-8, Ex. 10F].
Plaintiff was seen by Dwight Jacobus, M.D. in July of 2014
for complaints of ongoing pain in her wrists and elbows. Dr.
Jacobus recommended Plaintiff be brought into pain management
and further ordered a psychological evaluation to be sure
that stability was present for pain management. [ECF #9-10,
Ex. 13F]. Dr. Jacobus against evaluated Plaintiff in August
and December of 2014. His notes reveals that an MRI from
October of 2014 revealed degenerative changes secondary to
arthrosis at ¶ 4-5. He diagnosed Plaintiff with carpal
tunnel syndrome, neck pain, and cervical myelopathy. [ECF
#9-10, Ex. 13F]. At the December appointment, Dr. Jacobus
diagnosed Plaintiff with shoulder joint pain and knee pain.
[ECF #9-11, Ex. 16F]. On April 28, 2015, a nurse practitioner
evaluated Plaintiff and diagnosed her with anxiety and
depression. [ECF #9-10, Ex. 15F]. In May of 2015, Dr. Jacobus
diagnosed Plaintiff with neck pain, intervertebral disc
disorder, and cervical radiculitis. [ECF #9-10, Ex. 13F]. An
EMG on November 5, 2015 was mildly abrnomal and showed
recurrent right tardy ulnar palsy. [ECF #9-12, Ex. 20F].
applied for disability on September 12, 2013. Plaintiff's
claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration. After
she requested and was granted a hearing, the ALJ denied her
claim on May 17, 2016. Plaintiff's request for a review
by the Appeals Council was eventually denied, making the
findings and determination of the ALJ the final decision of
the Commissioner. The ALJ reviewed all of the medical history
in the record, as well as Plaintiff's testimony at the
hearing. The ALJ subsequently came up with several findings.
ALJ's findings were as follows:
(1) The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2017.
(2) The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since April 6, 2012 (20 C.F.R. 404.1571 et
(3) The claimant has the following severe impairments:
bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome and cervical degenerative
disc disease (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(c)).
(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. 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).
(5) After careful consideration of the entire record, I find
that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) except
the claimant can frequently handle, finger, and feel
bilaterally. She can do no climbing of ladders and have no
exposure to dangerous machinery, unprotected heights, or
(6) The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work
(20 C.F.R. 404.1565).
(7) The claimant was born on January 31, 1969 and was 43
years old, which is defined as a younger individual age
18-49, on the alleged disability onset date (20 C.F.R.
(8)The claimant has a limited education and is able to
communicate in English (20 C.F.R. 404.1564).
(9)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 ...