United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division
TIMOTHY M. CAIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
James Edward Thomas (“Thomas”) brought this
action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review
of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying his claim for disability
insurance benefits (“DIB”) under the Social
Security Act (“SSA”). (ECF No. 1). This matter is
before the court for review of the Report and Recommendation
(“Report”) of the United States Magistrate Judge,
made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local
Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(a), D.S.C., concerning the disposition
of social security cases in this district. (ECF No.
In his Report, the magistrate judge recommends that the court
reverse the decision of the Commissioner to deny benefits and
remand this matter to the Commissioner. Id. at 12.
The Commissioner filed objections. (ECF No. 34). Thomas filed
a reply to those objections. (ECF No. 38). Accordingly, this
matter is ripe for review. The court declines to adopt the
Report and instead recommits the matter to the magistrate
judge for the reasons set forth below.
6, 2012, Thomas filed an application for DIB, alleging that
he became unable to work on July 29, 2009, due to a spinal
fusion and a right arm injury from a gun shot wound years
earlier. (ECF Nos. 20-2 at 40, 44; 20-3 at 2). His application
was denied initially and on reconsideration. (ECF No. 20-3 at
11, 23, 26). Thomas requested a review by an administrative
law judge (“ALJ”), (ECF No. 20-4 at 13), and a
hearing was held before an ALJ on January 14, 2014 (ECF No.
20-2 at 33). On February 11, 2014, the ALJ denied Thomas
benefits, finding that Thomas was not disabled within the
meaning of the Act. (ECF No. 20-11 at 2-11). Thomas requested
a review of the ALJ's decision, which the Appeals Council
denied on June 2, 2015. Id. at 17. Thomas then filed
an action in this court on August 4, 2015, Thomas v.
Comm'r, 4:15-cv-3061-PMD-TER (D.S.C.). The
Commissioner requested remand to conduct a de novo hearing,
and, pursuant to sentence four, the court remanded the action
for further administrative proceedings. (ECF No. 20-11 at
23-25). Another hearing was held on May 16, 2017, at which
Thomas and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified.
(ECF No. 20-10 at 33). On August 18, 2017, the ALJ again
denied Thomas's claim, finding that Thomas was not
disabled within the meaning of the Act. Id. at
19-26. Thomas filed written exceptions to the ALJ's
decision. (ECF No. 20-12 at 59-65). On June 13, 2018, the
Appeals Council determined that the exceptions had no merit
and, therefore, found no reason to assume jurisdiction. (ECF
No. 20-10 at 2-5). Thomas then filed this action on July 2,
2018. (ECF No. 1).
Standard of Review
federal judiciary has a limited role in the administrative
scheme established by the SSA. Section 405(g) of the Act
provides, “the findings of the Commissioner of Social
Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive . . . .” 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). “Substantial evidence has been defined . . . as
more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance.”
Thomas v. Celebrezze, 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). Thus, in its
review, the court may not “undertake to re-weigh
conflicting evidence, make credibility determinations, or
substitute [its] own judgment for that of the
[Commissioner].” Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585,
589 (4th Cir. 1996).
“[f]rom this it does not follow . . . 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
agency.” Flack v. Cohen, 413 F.2d 278, 279
(4th Cir. 1969). Rather, “the 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 this conclusion is
rational.” Vitek, 438 F.2d at 1157-58.
hearing, the VE testified that Thomas' past relevant work
(“PRW”) as a casino dealer was classified as
skilled, light work with a specific vocational preparation
(“SVP”) of 5. (ECF No. 20-10 at 49). The ALJ
posed the following hypothetical to the VE: “Assume a
hypothetical worker, the same age as Thomas, same work
history and education, retaining light exertional capacity
only, with no climbing, crawling, balancing, or exposure to
industrial hazards.” Id. The VE testfied that
such an individual could perform Thomas' PRW.
Id. Thomas' attorney also questioned the VE. He
proposed a hypothetical with an individual limited to less
than constant reaching or unable to stand for most of the
workday. Id. at 50. The VE responded that such an
individual would be unable to perform the job of casino
decision, the ALJ determined that Thomas could preform his
PRW as a casino dealer. (ECF No. 20-10 at 26). Specifically,
the ALJ stated:
The vocational expert testified based on the residual
functional capacity set forth above, that claimant was
capable of performing his past relevant work as a casino
dealer (D.O.T. # 343.464-010), which is classified as light,
skilled work (SVP 5), as generally preformed.
In comparing the claimant's residual functional capacity
with the physical and mental demands of this work, the
undersigned finds that the claimant was able to perform it as
(ECF No. 20-10 at 26).
brief, Thomas alleges the ALJ erred in his analysis of his
PRW. (ECF No. 26 at 11). Specifically, he argues that the ALJ
did not comply with SSR 82-62. Id. at 13. He
contends that the ALJ failed to provide specific findings or
analysis regarding the physical and mental demands of
Thomas' PRW work, as required by SSR 82-62, and that SSR
82-62 requires the ALJ to make ...