United States District Court, D. South Carolina
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
J. GOSSETT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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, Sandra Rouse, 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,
Acting Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”), denying her claims for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). Having
carefully considered the parties' submissions and the
applicable law, the court concludes that the
Commissioner's decision should be reversed and the case
SECURITY DISABILITY GENERALLY
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A), (d)(5) and §
1382c(a)(3)(H)(i), 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), 416.905(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
(2) whether the claimant has a “severe”
(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;
(5) whether the claimant's impairments prevent her from
doing any other kind of work.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4),
416.920(a)(4). 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.
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), 1382c(a)(3)(A)-(B); 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).
2010, Rouse applied for DIB and SSI, alleging disability
beginning October 30, 2009. Rouse's applications were
denied initially and upon reconsideration, and she requested
a hearing before an ALJ. A hearing was held on February 16,
2012, at which Rouse, who was represented by Melissa L.
Franklin, Esquire, appeared and testified. After hearing
testimony from a vocational expert, the ALJ issued a decision
on April 3, 2012 finding that Rouse was not disabled. (Tr.
12-24.) The Appeals Council denied Rouse's request for
review, and Rouse appealed to the United States District
Court. The district court reversed the ALJ's April 3,
2012 decision and remanded Rouse's claim for the ALJ to
clarify the weight given to certain treating sources'
medical opinions. (Tr. 1095-99.) The Appeals Council issued
an order on November 12, 2014 remanding the matter for
further proceedings consistent with the order of the district
court. (Tr. 1120.) A second hearing was held on May 5, 2015,
at which Rouse appeared and testified and continued to be
represented by Melissa L. Franklin Hill, Esquire. After
hearing testimony from a vocational expert, the ALJ issued a
decision on July 21, 2015 finding that Rouse was not disabled
from October 30, 2009 through the date of the decision. (Tr.
was born in 1974 and was thirty-five years old at the time of
her alleged disability onset date. She has a high school
education and has past relevant work experience as a manager
and cashier at a gas station. (Tr. 155-56.) Rouse alleged
disability due to diabetes; bad vision; bad nerves in the
hands, arms, legs, and feet; and a bad heart. (Tr. 154.)
applying the five-step sequential process, the ALJ found that
Rouse had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since
her alleged onset date of October 30, 2009. The ALJ also
determined that Rouse's history of diabetes mellitus;
asthma; obesity; coronary artery disease, status post
myocardial infarction; and depression were severe
impairments. However, the ALJ found that Rouse did not have
an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (the
“Listings”). The ALJ found, after consideration
of the entire record, that Rouse retained the residual
functional capacity to
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and
416.967(a) with these additional limitations: avoid
concentrated exposure to heat, cold, dangerous heights, or
hazardous equipment; avoid odors, dust, gases, or fumes; and
limited to simple, ...