United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division
Bryan Harwell United States District Judge.
Darris Johnson (“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 disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act
(the “Act”). The matter is before the Court for
review of the Report and Recommendation of United States
Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant, 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.
Findings and Procedural History
October 10, 2012, Johnson applied for DIB, alleging
disability due to arthritis, spurs in the back of his neck
and his spine, pain, high blood pressure, and muscle spasms.
Within his application, he alleges a disability onset date of
February 1, 2012. The medical evidence of record reveals that
Johnson underwent a cervical MRI on June 22, 2012, which
showed that Johnson exhibited signs of degenerative stenosis.
Additional objective testing from that year indicated
cervical spine issues. Johnson's medical records indicate
that he complained of pain in his neck and upper right
extremity. He participated in physical therapy to help
alleviate this pain. In early 2013, Johnson continued to
report pain in his neck radiating down his right side. Dr.
Michael Davis performed a consultative exam in 2013 and found
that Johnson had significant radicular symptoms involving his
right arm and shoulder and would be limited in his ability to
lift and carry more than ten pounds with his right arm, and
limited in his ability to perform climbing and reaching,
handling, fingering, or feeling on his right side. [Tr.
456-459; Ex. 3F]. Two medical consultants with the
Administration (Dr. Van Slooten and Dr. Thomson) completed a
physical residual functional capacity assessment and found
that Johnson was capable of medium work with certain postural
and manipulative limitations. [Tr. 129-131; 140-142; Ex. 1A
and 3A]. Johnson also reported pain in his left scapular
region in 2013, as well as pain in his back. On April 14,
2014, an evaluation by Cherrie Thomas, a physician's
assistant with the Veterans Affairs Medical Center
(“VAMC”) revealed that Johnson continued to
suffer from left scapular pain and back pain. She also noted
that he was trying to receive an advanced certificate related
to his heating and air conditioning technician job, a job
which required heaving lifting. A thoracic x-ray from 2014
indicated normal results, while a lumbar x-ray showed
degenerative disc disease. [Tr. 607; Ex. 11F]. Johnson's
problems persisted in 2015, and a cervical MRI performed on
March 5, 2015 showed degenerative stenosis at more than one
level of the cervical spine. [Tr. 616; Ex.
Social Security Administration denied his application
initially and on reconsideration, therefore Johnson requested
a hearing before the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). The ALJ held a hearing on March 19,
2015. The ALJ denied Johnson's claim on May 13, 2015,
finding that Plaintiff was not under a disability as defined
in the Social Security Act, as amended. However, The Appeals
Council remanded the case back to the ALJ for further
consideration of whether Johnson was able to perform any of
his past relevant work. After a second hearing, a different
ALJ again denied Johnson's claim on February 14, 2017.
decision, The ALJ determined that, although Johnson suffers
from degenerative disc disease, he still retained the
residual functional capacity to perform light work, with
additional limitations [ECF #9-2, pp. 33]. The ALJ's
findings were as follows:
(1) The claimant last met the insured status requirements of
the Social Security Act on March 31, 2016.
(2) The claimant did not engage in substantial gainful
activity during the period from his last alleged onset date
of February 1, 2012 through his date last insured of March
31, 2016 (20 C.F.R. 404.1571 et seq.).
(3) Through the date last insured, the claimant had the
following severe impairment: degenerative disc disease (20
(4) Through the date last insured, the claimant did not have
an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled 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, 404.1526).
(5) After careful consideration of the entire record, I find
that, through the date last insured, the claimant had the
residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined
in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) with: occasional operation of hand
controls, overhead reaching, crawling, stooping, and climbing
ramps/stairs; no climbing ladders, ropes or scaffolds; no
concentrated exposure to excessive vibration, unprotected
heights, or hazards.
(6) Through the date last insured, the claimant was capable
of performing past relevant work as a bearing ring assembler.
This work did not require the performance of work-related
activities precluded by the claimant's residual
functional capacity (20 C.F.R. 404.1565).
(7) The claimant was not under a disability, as defined in
the Social Security Act, at any time from February 1, 2012,
the alleged onset date, through March 31, 2016, the date ...