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.

Mullinax v. Saul

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division

September 20, 2019

Tammie Lane Mullinax, Plaintiff,
v.
Andrew M. Saul, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Timothy M. Cain United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, Tammie Lane Mullinax (“Mullinax”), brought this action pursuant to the Social Security Act (“SSA”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”)[1], denying her claim for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”). (ECF No. 1). In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(a), D.S.C., this matter was referred to a magistrate judge for pretrial handling. Before this court is the magistrate judge’s Report and Recommendation (“Report”), recommending that the court affirm the Commissioner’s decision. (ECF No. 25).[2] Mullinax has filed objections to the Report (ECF No. 27), and the Commissioner has responded to those objections (ECF No. 29). Accordingly, this matter is now ripe for review.

         On January 3, 2014, Mullinax applied for DIB, alleging that she has been unable to work since July 1, 2013. (ECF No. 10-2 at 12). Her claim was denied initially on August 12, 2014, and upon reconsideration on December 10, 2014. Id. On December 2, 2016, an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) conducted a hearing and received testimony from Mullinax and Carroll Crawford, a vocational expert. Id. On February 1, 2017, the ALJ denied Mullinax’s claim for benefits. Id. at 27. The Appeals Council subsequently denied Mullinax’s request for review, making the ALJ’s decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Id. at 2.

         In his decision, the ALJ found that Mullinax suffered from the following severe impairments: arthralgias; lumbar degenerative disc disease (DDD); status post breast cancer, mastectomies and chemo-radiation; obesity; affective disorder; and anxiety disorder. (ECF No. 10-2 at 14). The ALJ concluded that Mullinax did “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.” Id. at 15.

         The ALJ then assessed Mullinax’s residual functional capacity (“RFC”) and concluded she could perform “light work as defined by as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), over the course of an 8-hour workday, in 2-hour increments with normal and acceptable work breaks.” (ECF No. 10-2 at 18). The ALJ further noted Mullinax “can never climb ladders ropes and scaffolds” but “can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, crouch and crawl . . . [and] occasionally stoop to lift within the exertional level from the floor to the waist.” Id.[3] The ALJ also found that Mullinax can, despite her impairments, “frequently stoop to lift within the exertional level from waist height and above, ” “frequently balance and kneel, ” and frequently perform bilateral overhead reaching within the exertional level. Id. Finally, the ALJ stated that Mullinax “has sufficient concentration, persistence and pace to understand, remember and carry out simple, routine tasks, in a low stress work environment, ” provided such tasks involve no more than “simple work-related decisions [and] occasional independent judgment skills.” Id.

         Because of these limitations, the ALJ found that Mullinax is unable to perform her past relevant work as an administrative assistant and laboratory assistant. Id. at 25. Ultimately, the ALJ concluded that, based on Mullinax’s age, education, work experience and RFC, there are light, unskilled jobs “that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform, ” such as garment folder, DOT No. 789.687-066. Id. at 25-26.[4] Thus, the ALJ ruled that Mullinax was not disabled within the meaning of the SSA between July 1, 2013, and February 1, 2017, the date of the ALJ’s decision. Id. at 26.

         On January 29, 2018, Mullinax filed this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner’s decision. (ECF No. 1). On April 24, 2019, the magistrate judge issued the Report recommending that the court affirm the Commissioner’s decision. (ECF No. 25). Mullinax filed objections to the Report, arguing: (1) the magistrate judge erroneously concluded that the ALJ properly evaluated the opinion of Dr. Robirds, her treating physician and (2) the magistrate judge erroneously concluded that the ALJ properly considered Mullinax’s subjective complaints regarding her symptoms and impairments. (ECF No. 27). In response, the Commissioner contended that Mullinax’s objections merely raised arguments already considered and rejected by the magistrate judge. (ECF No. 29).

         II. Standard of Review

         The federal judiciary has a limited role in the administrative scheme established by the SSA. Section 405(g) of the Act provides, “[t]he findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive . . ..” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “Substantial evidence has been defined . . . as more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance.” Thomas v. Celebrezze, 331 F.2d 541, 543 (4th Cir. 1964). This standard precludes a de novo review of the factual circumstances that substitutes the court’s findings for those of the Commissioner. Vitek v. Finch, 438 F.2d 1157 (4th Cir. 1971). Thus, in its review, the court may not “undertake to re-weigh conflicting evidence, make credibility determinations, or substitute [its] judgment for that of the [Commissioner].” Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589 (4th Cir. 1996).

         However, “[f]rom this it does not follow . . . that the findings of the administrative agency are to be mechanically accepted. The statutorily granted right of review contemplates more than an uncritical rubber stamping of the administrative agency.” Flack v. Cohen, 413 F.2d 278, 279 (4th Cir. 1969). Rather, “the courts must not abdicate their responsibility to give careful scrutiny to the whole record to assure that there is a sound foundation for the [Commissioner’s] findings, and that his conclusion is rational.” Vitek, 438 F.2d at 1157-58.

         III. Discussion

         A. Evaluation of Dr. Robirds’ Opinion

         Mullinax objects to the magistrate judge’s conclusion that the ALJ properly evaluated the opinion of Dr. Robirds, her treating physician. (ECF No. 27 at 1-4). Dr. Robirds signed a medical source statement (MSS) form dated November 15, 2016, reflecting the opinion that Mullinax could only occasionally lift and carry less than ten (10) pounds, and lift and carry on a frequent basis less than ten (10) pounds. (ECF No. 10-30 at 32). Dr. Robirds was also of the opinion that Mullinax could stand/walk (with normal breaks) less than two (2) hours during an 8-hour day (in ten (10) minute increments); and sit (with normal breaks) about two (2) hours in an 8-hour day (in thirty (30) minute increments). Id. at 52-53. Dr. Robirds further indicated that Mullinax would have to get up and walk around every ten (10) minutes and that she would need to lie down at unpredictable intervals during the work shift. Id. at 53. In support of his opinion regarding these limitations, Dr. Robirds stated that Mullinax “has lumbar disc and cervical disc disease.” Id. Dr. Robirds checked boxes indicating that these impairments “affect” reaching, handling, fingering, feeling/pushing/pulling; that her pain medications could cause balance problems, ...


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.