United States District Court, D. South Carolina
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
BRISTOW MARCHANT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Plaintiff filed the complaint in this action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner wherein she was denied
disability benefits. This case was referred to the
undersigned for a report and recommendation pursuant to Local
Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(a)(D.S.C.).
applied for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) on July 31,
2016 (protective filing date), alleging disability beginning
April 27, 2016 due to bipolar-manic disorder, depression,
post-traumatic stress disorder, osteoarthritis, connective
tissue disorder, diabetes, sinusitis, chronic inflammation,
fibromyalgia, Graves disease, autoimmune disorders,
thyroidism, and irritable bowel syndrome. (R.pp. 25, 195-201,
213). Plaintiff's claims were denied both initially and
upon reconsideration. A hearing was then held before an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on January 25, 2018 (R.pp. 25,
46-72), following which the ALJ denied Plaintiff's claims
in a decision dated March 13, 2018. (R.pp. 25-38). The
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for a review
of the ALJ's decision, thereby making the determination
of the ALJ the final decision of the Commissioner. (R.pp.
then filed this action in United States District Court.
Plaintiff asserts that there is not substantial evidence to
support the ALJ's decision, and that the decision should
be reversed and remanded to the Commissioner for payment of
benefits, or for further consideration of her claims. The
Commissioner contends that the decision to deny benefits is
supported by substantial evidence, and that Plaintiff was
properly found not to be disabled.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the Court's scope of review is
limited to (1) whether the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence, and (2) whether the
ultimate conclusions reached by the Commissioner are legally
correct under controlling law. Hays v. Sullivan, 907
F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990); Richardson v.
Califano, 574 F.2d 802, 803 (4th Cir. 1978); Myers
v. Califano, 611 F.2d 980, 98 2-983 (4th Cir. 1980). If
the record contains substantial evidence to support the
Commissioner's decision, it is the court's duty to
affirm the decision.
evidence has been defined as:
evidence which a reasoning mind would accept as sufficient to
support a particular conclusion. It consists of more than a
mere scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less than a
preponderance. If there is evidence to justify
refusal to direct a verdict were the case before a jury, then
there is “substantial evidence.”
Hays, 907 F.2d at 1456 (citing Laws v.
Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640 (4th Cir. 1966)); see also
Hepp v. Astrue, 511 F.3d 798, 806 (8th Cir.
2008)[Nothing that the substantial evidence standard is even
“less demanding than the preponderance of the evidence
Court lacks the authority to substitute its own judgment for
that of the Commissioner. Laws, 368 F.2d at 642.
“[T]he language of [405(g)] precludes a de novo
judicial proceeding and requires that the court uphold the
[Commissioner's] decision even should the court disagree
with such decision as long as it is supported by substantial
evidence.” Blalock v. Richardson, 483 F.2d
773, 775 (4th Cir. 1972).
who was thirty-nine (39) years old on her alleged disability
onset date, has a college degree and past relevant work
experience as a cosmetic supervisor, a container coordinator
(port position), and contract administrator (chemical sales).
(R.pp. 52-55, 66, 195). In order to be considered
“disabled” within the meaning of the Social
Security Act, Plaintiff must show that she has an impairment
or combination of impairments which prevent her from engaging
in all substantial gainful activity for which she is
qualified by her age, education, experience, and functional
capacity, and which has lasted or could reasonably be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
twelve (12) months.
review of the evidence and testimony in the case the ALJ
determined that, although Plaintiff does suffer from the
“severe” impairments of bipolar disorder, anxiety
disorder, type I diabetes mellitus, osteoarthritis of the
left shoulder, inflammatory polyarthropathy, and a tremor
(R.p. 27), she nevertheless retained the residual functional
capacity (RFC) for light work,  with additional limitations that
she can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; only
occasionally climb ramps and stairs, kneel, crouch, and
crawl; can frequently balance and stoop; and must avoid
exposure to cold, vibration, and hazards. The ALJ
additionally found that Plaintiff could perform and sustain
simple, routine tasks with occasional superficial contact
with co-workers and the general public, and occasional
changes in the work setting. (R.p. 30). At step four, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff was unable to perform her past relevant
work with these limitations. (R.p. 36). However, the ALJ
obtained testimony from a vocational expert (VE) and found at
step five that Plaintiff could perform other representative
occupations with these limitations, such as hand packager
(DOT # 559.687-074), bander (pens/pencils) (DOT #
733.687-018), and hand bander (paper) (DOT # 920.687-026),
and was therefore not entitled to disability benefits. (R.pp.
asserts that the ALJ erred in reaching her decision because
she failed to explain her findings regarding Plaintiff's
residual functional capacity as required by Social Security
Ruling 96-8p; did not account for Plaintiff's moderate
difficulties in concentration, persistence, and pace; failed
to account for her severe impairments of osteoarthritis of
the left shoulder and a tremor; failed to account for
Plaintiff's fatigue; failed to properly access the
medical opinions of Dr. Patrick McArthur, Dr. Jonathon
Simons, and Ms. Marcia Lite-Braus, LPC; and failed to
adequately consider Listing 12.04. After careful review and
consideration of the arguments presented, and for the reasons
set forth hereinbelow, the undersigned is constrained to
agree with Plaintiff that the ALJ committed reversible error
by failing to properly evaluate Plaintiff's RFC because
she failed to properly account for ...