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.

Fuller v. Saul

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

August 28, 2019

Katie Sue Fuller, Plaintiff,
v.
Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security,[1] Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          PAIGE J. GOSSETT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This social security matter is before the court for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to Local Civil Rule 83.VII.02 (D.S.C.). The plaintiff, Katie Sue Fuller, 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 Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). 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. § 423(d)(1)(A) and (d)(5), 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. § 404.1505(a); see also Blalock v. Richardson, 483 F.2d 773 (4th Cir. 1973). The regulations 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. § 404.1520(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. § 423(d)(2)(A); 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, Fuller applied for DIB, alleging disability beginning October 13, 2011. Fuller's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, and she requested a hearing before an ALJ. A hearing was held on June 22, 2017, at which Fuller appeared and testified and was represented by Michelle D. Powers, Esquire. After hearing testimony from a vocational expert, the ALJ issued a decision on August 11, 2017 finding that Fuller was not disabled from October 13, 2011 through the date last insured of December 31, 2015. (Tr. 16-31.)

         Fuller was born in 1963 and was fifty-two years old on her date last insured. She has a ninth-grade education and past relevant work experience as a short order cook and a surveyor's assistant. (Tr. 187.) Fuller alleged disability due to fibromyalgia, arthritis, asthma, high cholesterol, bad nerves, and migraines. (Tr. 186.)

         In applying the five-step sequential process, the ALJ found that Fuller had not engaged in substantial gainful activity from her alleged onset date of October 13, 2011 through her date last insured of December 31, 2015. The ALJ also determined that, through the date last insured, Fuller's mild degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, degenerative joint disease of the left knee, orthostatic hypotension, asthma, obesity, and fibromyalgia were severe impairments. However, the ALJ found that, through the date last insured, Fuller 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 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (the “Listings”). The ALJ further found that, through the date last insured, Fuller retained the residual functional capacity to

perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except she can lift/carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; stand/walk six hours in an eight-hour day; sit for six hours in an eight hour day; except never climb ladders/ropes/scaffolds; occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ramps/stairs; must avoid concentrated exposure to respiratory irritants such as dust, fumes, gasses, etc.; frequent, but not constant overhead reaching bilaterally; frequent, but not constant handling and fingering.

(Tr. 20.) The ALJ found that, through the date last insured, Fuller was unable to perform any past relevant work, but that considering Fuller's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Fuller could have performed. Accordingly, the ALJ found that Fuller was not disabled from October 13, 2011 through the date last insured of December 31, 2015.

         The Appeals Council denied Fuller's request for review on May 21, 2018, thereby making the decision of the ALJ the final action of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-5.) This action followed.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the court may review the Commissioner's denial of benefits. However, this review is limited to considering whether the Commissioner's findings “are supported by substantial evidence and were reached through application of the correct legal standard.” Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589 (4th Cir. 1996); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Coffman v. Bowen, 829 F.2d 514, 517 (4th Cir. 1987). Thus, the court may review only whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence and whether the correct law was applied. See Brown v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 873 F.3d 251, 267 (4th Cir. 2017); Myers v. Califano, 611 F.2d 980, 982 (4th Cir. 1980). “Substantial evidence” means “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion; it consists of more than a mere scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less than a preponderance.” Craig, 76 F.3d at 589; see also Pearson v. Colvin, 810 F.3d 204, 207 (4th Cir. 2015). In reviewing the evidence, the court may not “undertake to re-weigh conflicting evidence, make credibility determinations, or substitute [its] judgment for that of the [Commissioner].” Craig, 76 F.3d at 589; see also Hancock v. Astrue, 667 F.3d 470, 472 (4th Cir. 2012). Accordingly, even if the court disagrees with the Commissioner's decision, the court must uphold it if it is supported by substantial evidence. Blalock, 483 F.2d at 775.

         ISSUES

         Fuller raises the following issues for ...


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.