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Jackson v. Saul

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

July 31, 2019

Saporia Octavia Jackson, Plaintiff,
v.
Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          ORDER

          PAIGE J. GOSSETT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This social security matter is before the court pursuant to Local Civil Rule 83.VII.02 (D.S.C.) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) for final adjudication, with the consent of the parties, of the plaintiff's petition for judicial review. The plaintiff, Saporia Octavia Jackson, brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the defendant, Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”), denying her claims for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). Having carefully considered the parties' submissions and the applicable law, the court concludes that the Commissioner's decision should be affirmed.

         SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY GENERALLY

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(H)(i), as well as pursuant to the regulations formulated by the Commissioner, the plaintiff has the burden of proving disability, which is defined as an “inability to do 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 12 months.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.905(a); see also Blalock v. Richardson, 483 F.2d 773 (4th Cir. 1973). The regulations generally require the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) to consider, in sequence:

(1) whether the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity;
(2) whether the claimant has a “severe” impairment;
(3) whether the claimant has an impairment that meets or equals the requirements of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (“the Listings”), and is thus presumptively disabled;
(4) whether the claimant can perform her past relevant work; and (5) whether the claimant's impairments prevent her from doing any other kind of work.

20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4).[2] If the ALJ can make a determination that a claimant is or is not disabled at any point in this process, review does not proceed to the next step. Id.

         Under this analysis, a claimant has the initial burden of showing that she is unable to return to her past relevant work because of her impairments. Once the claimant establishes a prima facie case of disability, the burden shifts to the Commissioner. To satisfy this burden, the Commissioner must establish that the claimant has the residual functional capacity, considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and impairments, to perform alternative jobs that exist in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A)-(B); see also McLain v. Schweiker, 715 F.2d 866, 868-69 (4th Cir. 1983); Hall v. Harris, 658 F.2d 260, 264-65 (4th Cir. 1981); Wilson v. Califano, 617 F.2d 1050, 1053 (4th Cir. 1980). The Commissioner may carry this burden by obtaining testimony from a vocational expert. Grant v. Schweiker, 699 F.2d 189, 192 (4th Cir. 1983).

         ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

         In September 2014, Jackson applied for SSI, alleging disability beginning October 26, 2009. Jackson's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, and she requested a hearing before an ALJ. A hearing was held on March 9, 2017, at which Jackson appeared and testified and was represented by Jason K. Baril, Esquire and Ryan Goddard, Esquire. After hearing testimony from a vocational expert, the ALJ issued a decision on May 22, 2017 finding that Jackson had not been under a disability since the application was filed on September 23, 2014. (Tr. 20-27.)

         Jackson was born in 1994 and was twenty years old on the date her application was filed. She has a high school education and no past relevant work experience. (Tr. 195.) Jackson alleged disability due to brachial plexus, and right shoulder and arm numbness and atrophy. (Tr. 194.)

         In applying the five-step sequential process, the ALJ found that Jackson had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the application date of September 23, 2014. The ALJ also determined that Jackson's right brachial plexus with right shoulder degenerative joint disease were severe impairments. However, the ALJ found that Jackson did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part ...


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