United States District Court, D. South Carolina
OPINION AND ORDER
C. COGGINS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
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 (“Commissioner”)
denying his claims for Supplemental Security Income
("SSI"). In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)
and Local Civil Rule 73.02 (D.S.C.), this matter was referred
to a United States Magistrate Judge for pre-trial handling.
On May 7, 2018, Magistrate Judge Shiva V. Hodges issued a
Report and Recommendation (“Report”),
recommending that the decision of the Commissioner be
reversed and remanded. ECF No. 23. Plaintiff and the
Commissioner both filed Objections, and each party filed a
Reply to the other's Objections. ECF Nos. 25-28. For the
reasons stated below, the Court adopts the Report and
incorporates it herein by reference.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court.
The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the
responsibility to make a final determination remains with
this Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71
(1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo
determination of only those portions of the Report that have
been specifically objected to, and the Court may accept,
reject, or modify the Report, in whole or in part. 28 U.S.C.
role of the federal judiciary in the administrative scheme
established by the Social Security Act (“the
Act”) is a limited one. Section 205(g) of the Act
provides, “[t]he findings of the Secretary as to any
fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be
conclusive . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
“Substantial evidence has been defined innumerable
times as more than a scintilla, but less than
preponderance.” Thomas v. Celebreeze, 331 F.2d
541, 543 (4th Cir. 1964). This standard precludes a de novo
review of the factual circumstances that substitutes the
court's findings for those of the Commissioner. Vitek
v. Finch, 438 F.2d 1157 (4th Cir. 1971). The court must
uphold the Commissioner's decision as long as it was
supported by substantial evidence and reached through the
application of the correct legal standard. Johnson v.
Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650 (4th Cir. 2005). “From this
it does not follow, however, that the findings of the
administrative agency are to be mechanically accepted. The
statutorily granted right of review contemplates more than an
uncritical rubber stamping of the administrative
action.” Flack v. Cohen, 413 F.2d 278, 279
(4th Cir. 1969). “[T]he courts must not abdicate their
responsibility to give careful scrutiny to the whole record
to assure that there is a sound foundation for the
[Commissioner's] findings, and that his conclusion is
rational.” Vitek, 438 F.2d at 1157-58.
was approved for SSI as a disabled child with an onset date
of October 1, 2002, based on diagnoses of attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder ("ADHD") and borderline
intellectual functioning. On February 11, 2013, the Social
Security Administration determined that Plaintiff was no
longer disabled under the rules for determining disability in
adults. This determination was upheld upon reconsideration on
July 24, 2014, following a hearing before a state agency
disability hearing officer. On March 9, 2016, Plaintiff then
had a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ"). The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on
September 28, 2016, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled.
The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review, making the determination of the ALJ the final
decision of the Commissioner.
Magistrate Judge recommends the Court reverse and remand the
Commissioner's decision because the ALJ failed to
adequately consider material evidence when determining
whether Plaintiff could establish a disability under Listing
12.05C. The Commissioner filed Objections, contending the
Magistrate Judge reweighed the evidence rather than viewing
the case through the proper substantial evidence standard of
review. ECF No. 25. Plaintiff filed Objections, in which he
agrees with the Magistrate Judge's Report but seeks
clarification that, upon remand, the ALJ should apply the
criteria of the Listings that were in effect prior to January
establish disability under Listing 12.05, an individual must
show significantly subaverage general intellectual
functioning with deficits in adaptive functioning that
initially manifested prior to age 22 and meet the severity
requirements in either paragraph A, B, C, or D. 20 C.F.R.,
Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App'x 1 § 12.05 (effective May
24, 2016 to September 28, 2016). Paragraph C requires that a
claimant demonstrate a "valid verbal, performance, or
full scale IQ of 60 through 70" and "a physical or
other mental impairment imposing an additional and
significant work-related limitation of function. Id.
§ 12.05C. "Once it is established that the
claimant's IQ falls within the range required by §
12.05C, the inquiry is whether the claimant suffers from any
additional physical or mental impairment significantly
limiting work-related functions." Id..;
Kennedy v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 168, 172 (4th Cir.
1984). "An impairment which imposes an additional and
significant work-related limitation of function is any
impairment which is defined as severe." Odom v.
Colvin, No. 1:14-576-JMC, 2015 WL 3560685, at *4 (D.S.C.
June 5, 2015) (citation omitted).
Dr. Joseph Hammond administered the Wechsler Adult
Intelligence Scale - Fourth Edition in January 2013.
Plaintiff's Full-Scale IQ score was 70. The ALJ, however,
noted that Plaintiff's other "IQ scores have
consistently been above Listing level, albeit
modestly so, since childhood, apart from his lone . . . score
of 70 in January 2013, which is at the upper boundary of the
Listing level." ECF No. 12-2 at 23. Therefore, in order to
meet the Listing, there must have been evidence that
Plaintiff suffered from "a physical or other mental
impairment imposing an additional and significant
work-related limitation of function." 20 C.F.R., Pt.
404, Subpt. P, App'x 1 § 12.05C. As to this issue,
the Report outlines the ALJ's findings but notes that the
ALJ neglected to address evidence of Plaintiff's deficits
in adaptive functioning as manifested in his academic
functioning, such as his placement in special education
Commissioner's objections outline, in detail, the
evidence that supports the ALJ's finding that Plaintiff
did not suffer from deficits in adaptive functioning. That,
however, misses the point of the Report's recommendation,
which focuses on the evidence that the ALJ did not
address. The ALJ has a duty to analyze all relevant evidence
and to explain the weight given to that evidence. When an ALJ
fails to do so, the Court on judicial review cannot
meaningfully determine whether substantial evidence supports
the ALJ's finding. Accordingly, the Court overrules the
Commissioner's Objections and adopts and incorporates the
Report's well-reasoned analysis.
filed Objections to the Report "solely to the extent
[the Report] does not explicitly state that, upon remand, the
ALJ should apply the criteria of the Listings that were in
effect prior to January 17, 2017." ECF No. 26 at 1. As
Plaintiff notes, Listing 12.05(c) was deleted from the
Listings as of January 17, 2017, pursuant to the final rule
on Revised Medical Criteria for Evaluating Mental Disorders,
81 Fed.Reg. 66138 (Sept. 26, 2016). The regulation at issue
states, in a footnote, "[i]f a court reverses our final
decision and remands a case for further administrative
proceedings after the effective date of these final rules, we
will apply these final rules to the entire period at issue in
the decision we make after the court's remand." 81
Fed.Reg. 66138 n.1. Nonetheless, Plaintiff contends the
revisions to Listing 12.05 "alter a claimant's
substantive rights, and as such, the Social Security
Administration does not have the authority to apply the
revised listings retroactively." ECF No. 26 at 3. While
the Court understands Plaintiff's concern, it would be
premature to decide this issue at this juncture. The
application of the relevant Listings is a matter for the
Commissioner to determine, and Plaintiff is free to raise any
challenges on that issue on remand. See Davis v.
Colvin, No. 16-112, 2017 WL 1198381, at *3 n.2 (W.D. Pa.
March 30, 2017) ("Listing 12.05 was revised
significantly effective January 17, 2017. However, this Court
will review the ALJ's decision ...