Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Chaney v. Saul

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

July 2, 2019

TRACY DENISE CHANEY, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          MARY GORDON BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This case is before the Court for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to Local Rule 73.02(B)(2)(a), D.S.C., concerning the disposition of Social Security cases in this District, and Title 28, United States Code, Section 636(b)(1)(B). Plaintiff Tracy Denise Chaney (“Plaintiff”) brought this action pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended, (42 U.S.C. § 405(g)), to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security Administration (the “Administration”) regarding her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (the “Act”). For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned recommends that this matter be remanded for further consideration and analysis by the Commissioner.

         RELEVANT FACTS AND ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

         Plaintiff was 47 years old on her alleged disability onset date of June 17, 2013. (R. at 28, 279; Dkt. No. 11 at 2.) Plaintiff alleged disability due to, inter alia, panic attacks, anxiety, and depression; arthritis in both shoulders and hips; spasms of the esophagus and stomach; acid reflux; gastritis; pancreatitis; L3-4 lateral recess narrowing; compression of the exiting nerve roots bilaterally at ¶ 5-S1; disc material abutting exiting nerve root on the left at ¶ 4-5; mild facet hypertrophy at ¶ 2-3-4-5; and mild facet disease at ¶ 5-S1. (R. at 84, 99.) Plaintiff has past relevant work as a creeler, weaver, collection agent, and loan clerk. (Id. at 36, 70-75.)

         Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI on October 21, 2014.[1] (Id. at 28; Dkt. No. 11 at 2.) Her application was denied initially on April 3, 2015, and on reconsideration on May 28, 2015. (R. at 163, 181.) After a hearing before the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on April 25, 2017, (id. at 46-83), the ALJ issued a decision on June 5, 2017, in which the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled (id. at 28-38). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, (id. at 1-5), making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of judicial review.

         In making the determination that Plaintiff is not entitled to benefits, the Commissioner has adopted the following findings of the decision:

(1) The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through March 31, 2018.
(2) The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 17, 2013, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
(3) The claimant has the following severe impairments: lumbar spine disorder, bilateral hallux valgus deformity, depression, and anxiety (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(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 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
(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 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except she can never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; she can occasionally climb ramps or stairs; she can frequently balance; she can occasionally crouch, kneel, or crawl; work is limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks; she can perform these tasks for two hour blocks of time with normal rest breaks during an eight hour work day; and she can have occasional interaction with coworkers and the general public.
(6) The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
(7) The claimant was born on June 11, 1966 and was 47 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date. The claimant subsequently changed age category to closely approaching advanced age (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).
(8) The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964).
(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 skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
(10) Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant No. in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 404.1569, 404.1569(a), 416.969, and 416.969(a)).
(11) The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from June 17, 2013, through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).

(Id. at 28-38.)

         APPLICABLE LAW

         The Act provides that disability benefits shall be available to those persons insured for benefits, who are not of retirement age, who properly apply, and who are under a “disability.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(a). The Act also provides that SSI disability benefits shall be available for aged, blind, or disabled persons who have income and resources below a specific amount. See 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq. “Disability” is defined in the Act as the inability to “engage in 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” twelve months. See 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A) (DIB context); 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a)(3)(A) (SSI context).[2]

         To facilitate a uniform and efficient processing of disability claims, the Act has by regulation reduced the statutory definition of “disability” to a series of five sequential questions. An examiner must consider whether the claimant (1) is engaged in substantial gainful activity, (2) has a severe impairment, (3) has an impairment which equals an illness contained in the Administration's official Listing of Impairments found at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, (4) has an impairment which prevents past relevant work, and (5) has an impairment which prevents her from doing substantial gainful employment. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 (DIB context); 20 C.F.R. § 416.920 (SSI context). If an individual is found not disabled at any step, further inquiry is unnecessary. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4) (DIB context); 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4) (SSI context); see also Hall v. Harris, 658 F.2d 260 (4th Cir. 1981).

         The claimant bears the burden of proof with respect to the first four steps of the analysis. Pass v. Chater, 65 F.3d 1200, 1203 (4th Cir. 1995). Once the claimant has established an inability to return to her past relevant work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that the claimant-considering her age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity-can perform alternative jobs and that such jobs exist in the national economy. See SSR 82-62, 1982 WL 31386, at *3; Grant v. Schweiker, 699 F.2d 189, 191 (4th Cir. 1983); see also Monroe v. Colvin, 826 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2016). The Commissioner may satisfy this burden by obtaining testimony from a vocational expert. See Grant, 699 F.2d at 191-92.

         The scope of judicial review by the federal courts in disability cases is narrowly tailored to determine whether the findings of the Commissioner “are supported by substantial evidence and whether the correct law was applied.” Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990); see also Woods v. Berryhill, 888 F.3d 686, 691 (4th Cir. 2018); Mascio v. Colvin, 780 F.3d 632, 634 (4th Cir. 2015); 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3). Consequently, the Act precludes a de novo review of the evidence and requires that the court uphold the Commissioner's decision as long as it is supported by substantial evidence. Pyles v. Bowen, 849 F.2d 846, 848 (4th Cir. 1988) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and Smith v. Schweiker, 795 F.2d 343, 345 (4th Cir. 1986)); see also Mascio, 780 F.3d at 640; Bird v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 699 F.3d 337, 340 (4th Cir. 2012).

         Substantial evidence is “more than a mere scintilla of evidence but may be less than a preponderance.” Pearson v. Colvin,810 F.3d 204, 207 (4th Cir. 2015) (citing Hancock v. Astrue,667 F.3d 470, 472 (4th Cir. 2012)). “In reviewing for substantial evidence, [the court does] not undertake to reweigh conflicting evidence, make credibility determinations, or substitute [its] judgment for that of the [ALJ].” Hancock, 667 F.3d at 472. “Where conflicting evidence allows reasonable minds to differ as to whether a claimant is disabled, the responsibility for that decision falls on the [ALJ], ” not on the reviewing court. Id. However, “[a] ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.