United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Orangeburg Division
Gregory T. Merriweather, Plaintiff,
Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
BRYAN HARWELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Gregory T. Merriweather (“Merriweather”) 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 supplement security income
(“SSI”) pursuant to the Social Security Act (the
“Act”). The matter is before the Court for review
of the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate
Judge Kaymani D. West, 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. [ECF No.
Findings and Procedural History
April 7, 2014 Merriweather filed an application for SSI
benefits, alleging disability beginning on December 31, 2010;
however, at his hearing, he amended his alleged onset date to
April 7, 2014. The Social Security Administration denied his
application initially and on reconsideration, therefore
Merriweather requested a hearing before the Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”). The ALJ held a hearing on
February 21, 2017. The ALJ denied his claim on April 10,
2017, finding that he was not under a disability as defined
by the Social Security Act, as amended.
alleges he has medical impairments with respect to his left
shoulder and left arm which resulted in the need for a left
superior labral tear from anterior to posterior
(“SLAP”) repair. He has also undergone a shoulder
surgery to repair his rotator cuff [Tr. 483; 619]. On
December 13, 2014, an MRI of his left shoulder revealed a
full thickness re-tear of the tendon. [Tr. 782]. He underwent
a third surgery to repair his rotator cuff on September 14,
2015. [Tr. 1057]. He received further treatment due to
degenerative disc disease and associated neck pain. An MRI on
March 28, 2016 showed moderate neural foraminal stenosis at
the C4-C5 level, as well as degenerative disc disease at the
C5-C6 level with disc osteophyte complex, and moderate left
neural foraminal stenosis at the C5-C6 level. [Tr.
1129-1130]. Plaintiff also states he has bilateral knee pain
for which he has undergone physical therapy and has required
the use a cane. [Tr. 57-58]. Plaintiff's medical history
also includes the fact that he has suffered several strokes
and experienced heart problems, such as an irregular
heartbeat and high blood pressure. [Tr. 61]. Medical records
from the Veterans Administration Medical Center indicate he
has had strokes in more than one location of the brain, as
well as some atrophy of the brain. [Tr. 353, 687]. He wore a
“stress sleeve” for a period of time for issues
related to elbow pain. Finally, he has been diagnosed and
treated for mental health conditions, including depression.
When he was evaluated on April 3, 2014, his GAF score was 50.
[Tr. 383]. In 2016, Merriweather had a GAF score of 52, and
in October of 2016, he reported worsening depression with
frequent suicidal ideation. [Tr. 1215]. Plaintiff previously
worked as a landscaper. He also worked for a short period of
time at Walmart and the Salvation Army. [Tr. 53].
hearing, Merriweather's counsel requested that the ALJ
hold open the record for fourteen days for the submission of
additional medical evidence. However, Merriweather did not
provide any additional medical evidence nor did he request
any further extension of time. In the decision denying
benefits, The ALJ determined that, although Merriweather
suffers from degenerative disc disease, he still retained the
residual functional capacity to perform light work, with
additional limitations [ECF No. 9-2, p. 33]. The ALJ's
findings were as follows:
(1) Claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since April 7, 2014, the amended alleged onset date (20
C.F.R. 416.971 et seq.).
(2) Claimant has the following severe impairments: left
shoulder disorders, bilateral knee degenerative joint
disease, cervical spine degenerative disc disease, status
post strokes, and depression (20 C.F.R. 416.920(c)).
(3) 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. 416.920(d), 416.925, 416.926).
(4) After careful consideration of the entire record, I find
that claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform
less than the full range of light work as defined in 20
C.F.R. 416.967(b). Claimant can lift, carry, push, and pull
20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, stand or
walk 6 hours in an 8 hour workday, and sit 6 hours in an 8
hour workday. Claimant can occasionally reach with the left
upper extremity, and frequently handle and finger with the
left upper extremity. Claimant can occasionally reach with
the left upper extremity, and frequently handle and finger
with the left upper extremity. Claimant can occasionally
crawl and climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds, and frequently
stoop, kneel, crouch, balance, climb ramps, and climb stairs.
Claimant can tolerate occasional exposure to hazards such as
unprotected heights and moving mechanical parts. Claimant is
limited to simple, routine tasks and simple work-related
decisions, but is able to maintain concentration,
persistence, and pace for 2 hour periods, perform activities
within a schedule, maintain regular attendance, and complete
a normal workday and workweek. Claimant can occasionally
interact with the general public and can tolerate frequent
changes in a routine work setting.
(5) Claimant has no past relevant work (20 C.F.R. 416.925).
(6) Claimant was born on April 1, 1963 and was 51 years old,
which is defined as an individual closing approaching
advanced age, on the date the application was filed (20
(7) Claimant has at least a high school education and is able
to communicate in English (20 C.F.R. 416.964).
(8) Transferability of job skills is not an issue because
claimant does not have past relevant work (20 C.F.R.
(9) Considering claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that claimant can perform (20 C.F.R. 416.969 and 416.969(a)).
(7) Claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in
the Social Security Act, since April 7, 2014, the ...