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Miles v. Saul

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

September 17, 2019

Alvin Junior Miles, II, 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, Alvin Junior Miles, II, 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 his 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 reversed and remanded.

         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 his past relevant work; and
(5) whether the claimant's impairments prevent him 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 he is unable to return to his past relevant work because of his 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 August 2014, Miles applied for DIB, alleging disability beginning November 26, 2013. Miles's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, and he requested a hearing before an ALJ. A hearing was held on July 28, 2017, at which Miles appeared and testified and was represented by Martin E. Keane, Esquire. After hearing testimony from a vocational expert, the ALJ issued a decision on September 22, 2017 finding that Miles was not disabled from November 26, 2013 through the date of the decision. (Tr. 17-25.)

         Miles was born in 1962 and was fifty-one years old on his alleged disability onset date. He has a high school education and past relevant work experience as an electrician's helper and as a meat department manager at WalMart. (Tr. 195.) Miles alleged disability due to a permanent feeding tube, a stomach drain tube, and deafness in one ear. (Tr. 194.)

         In applying the five-step sequential process, the ALJ found that Miles had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date of November 26, 2013. The ALJ also determined that Miles's disorders of the gastrointestinal system, dysfunction of a major joint (shoulder), and hearing loss were severe impairments. However, the ALJ found that Miles 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 ...


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