United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division
BRYAN HARWELL CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Ronnie James (“James”) 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
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) 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 Thomas E.
Rogers III, 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. 21].
Findings and Procedural History
January 13, 2014, James filed an application for DIB
benefits, alleging that by virtue of a disabling condition,
he became unable to work on July 19, 2013. He was fifty-five
years old on the alleged disability onset date. James alleges
he became unable to work due to upper and lower body
joint/arthritis issues, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
(COPD), anxiety, and bipolar disorder. [Tr. at 354].
James' medical history and testimony regarding his
impairments have been adequately set forth in great detail in
the R&R and reviewed by this Court. Briefly stated, James
was diagnosed with COPD in June of 2012. [Tr. at 493]. He has
been treated for anxiety since at least October 2013;. His
medical records generally indicate a normal mood and affect,
as well as minimal problems with concentration and
understanding. [Tr. at 476; 344; 969;713; 918; 604;
736]. The records reveal that James is generally
an active individual who handles many of the household
chores, drives by himself, goes shopping, and is the sole
caregiver for his grandson. [Tr. 308-87]. In some medical
records, James describes having little energy, as well as
experiencing joint pain and joint swelling. [Tr. at 479].
However, musculoskeletal exams during that time were normal.
[Tr. at 480]. Dr. Kelly, a state agency consultant, examined
James for mental impairments and found he had a normal gait,
he had unrestricted social functioning, and his memory,
attention and concentration appeared to be within normal
limits. Her impressions were that James may suffer from
adjustment disorder with depressed and anxious mood. [Tr. at
511]. Another state agency consultant, Dr. Rudnick,
determined James had nonsevere impairments. [Tr. at 206].
These results were confirmed by Dr. Anderson and Dr. Lenrow,
two other state agency consultants. [Tr. at 218-220]. Dr.
Bell, a physician who saw James only one time completed a
mental health questionnaire, but he was unable to provide any
work-related limitations as he only saw James for one visit.
[Tr. at 556]. Another treating physician, Dr. Moyd, also
completed a mental health questionnaire in 2014 and
determined that James had a good ability to complete basic
activities of daily living and simple routine tasks, good
ability to relate to others, and adequate ability to complete
complex tasks. He diagnosed James with “stated
forgetfulness.” [Tr. at 559].
records indicate continued problems with shortness of breath,
and on August 12, 2015 a pulmonary function test showed
suspected moderate obstructive ventiliary defect. [Tr. at
676, 770]. In August of 3015, James was prescribed baclofen
for fibromyalgia after complaining of joint pain and muscle
aches and an exam revealed tender spots. [Tr. at 914]. He
also began taking prednisone to treat fibromyalgia but was
not interested in exercising to help relieve some of his
pain. [Tr. at 909; 757]. In 2016, James continued to have
relatively normal examination results. A March 2016 MRI
showed disc space narrowing with minimal bulging discs at
¶ 2-5. [Tr. at 717, 997, 1076]. On July 28, 2016, James
discussed disability paperwork with Dr. Moyd. In this
paperwork, his fibromyalgia was assessed as
“improved.” [Tr. at 854]. He underwent a right
hallux cheilectomy on December 7, 2016. [Tr. at 696, 715].
Medical records indicate James was not always compliant with
taking prescribed medication, such as Valium. In the records
presented to the ALJ, his exams were generally normal, though
one medical record indicated that James changed his reporting
of his history throughout his exam. [Tr. at 1024]. In April
of 2017, James reported to Dr. Moyd that he had aching pain
in his back and that he felt a tingling sensation from his
head to his toes. [Tr. at 1015-18]. At his hearing, James
reported that while he still feels he has fibromyalgia, it is
mild. [Tr. at 184-185].
Social Security Administration denied his application
initially and on reconsideration, therefore James requested a
hearing before the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). The ALJ held a hearing on April 28,
2017, where both James and a vocational expert gave
testimony. Thereafter, the ALJ denied his claim on August 2,
2017, finding that he was not under a disability as defined
by the Social Security Act, as amended.
ALJ's findings were as follows:
(1) The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2018.
(2) The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since July 19, 2013, the alleged onset date (20 CFR
416.1571 et seq.).
(3) The claimant has the following severe impairments:
osteoarthritis; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease;
fibromyalgia; depression; and anxiety (20 CFR 416.1520(c)).
(4) The 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 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.1520(d), 416.1525, 416.1526).
(5) After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform medium work as defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(c) except no climbing, crawling, or balancing;
no exposure to extreme hazards or extreme temperatures; no
concentrated exposure to lung irritants; in a low stress
setting with only occasional decision making or changes and
only occasional interactions with the public.
(6) The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work
(20 CFR 416.1565).
(7) The claimant was born on July 20, 1957 and was 55 years
old, which is defined as an individual of advanced age, on
the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 416.1563).
(8) The claimant has at least a high school education and is
able to communicate in English (20 CFR 416.1564).
(9) Transferability of job skills is not material to the
determination of disability because using the
Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding
that the claimant is “not disabled, ” whether or
not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41
and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
(10) Considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that the claimant ...