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Goodman v. Saul

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

January 3, 2020

James Junior Goodman, Plaintiff,
v.
Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          ORDER

          PAIGE J. GOSSETT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This social security matter is before the court pursuant to Local Civil Rule 83.VII.02 (D.S.C.) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) for final adjudication, with the consent of the parties, of the plaintiff's petition for judicial review. The plaintiff, James Junior Goodman, 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 that the case should be remanded for further consideration as explained below.

         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 December 2015, Goodman applied for DIB, alleging disability beginning August 15, 2011. Goodman's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, and he requested a hearing before an ALJ. A video hearing was held on January 23, 2018, at which Goodman appeared and testified and was represented by Christi B. McDaniel, Esquire. After hearing testimony from a vocational expert, the ALJ issued a decision on April 17, 2018 finding that Goodman was not disabled from August 15, 2011 through December 31, 2016, the date last insured. (Tr. 15-35.)

         Goodman was born in 1971 and was forty-five years old on his date last insured. He has a high school education and past relevant work experience as a truck driver. (Tr. 197.) Goodman alleged disability due to post-traumatic stress disorder, sarcoidosis, joint pain, ...


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