United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia, Wheeling
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
W. TRUMBLE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
case arises from the denial of Plaintiff Clifton Vance's
(“Plaintiff”) Title II application for a period
of disability and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) and Title XVI application for
supplemental security income (“SSI”). After
Plaintiff's application proceeded through the
administrative process, a United States Administrative Law
Judge Mark A. O'Hara (“the ALJ”) concluded
that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the
Social Security Act. Now, Plaintiff seeks judicial review of
the ALJ's decision. Because the ALJ's decision to
deny Plaintiff's claim for DIB and SSI is supported by
substantial evidence, the undersigned recommends that
Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment be denied and
Defendant's motion for summary judgment be granted.
12, 2013, Plaintiff filed a claim for disability, DIB, and
SSI, alleging that his disability began on April 15, 2012. R.
254-60. Plaintiff's claims were denied initially, R.
143-45, 150-52, and on reconsideration, R. 156-63. After
these denials, Plaintiff filed a written request for a
hearing before an ALJ. R. 164-65. On February 12, 2016, a
hearing was held before the ALJ in Petersburg, West Virginia.
R. 39-83. Plaintiff, represented by counsel Steven Shea,
Esq., and Jeannie Deal, an impartial vocational expert,
appeared in person. R. 39. Approximately four months later,
the ALJ issued a decision concluding that Plaintiff was not
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. R.
16-33. On September 9, 2016, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner. R. 1-4.
November 8, 2016, Plaintiff, through counsel Scott B. Elkind,
Esq., filed a Complaint in this Court to obtain judicial
review of the Commissioner's final decision pursuant to
Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) (2015). Compl., ECF No. 1. The
Commissioner, through counsel Helen Campbell Altmeyer,
Assistant United States Attorney, filed her Answer and the
Administrative Record of the proceedings on February 13,
2017. Answer, ECF No. 8; Admin. R., ECF No. 9. Soon
thereafter, Plaintiff and the Commissioner filed their
Motions for Summary Judgment and their supporting briefs on
March 15, 2017 and April 13, 2017, respectively. Pl.'s
Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 12; Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., ECF No.
matter is now before the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge for a Report and Recommendation to the District Judge
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule of
Civil Procedure 9.02(a). Having reviewed the parties'
motions and the administrative record, the undersigned now
issues the following Report and Recommendation.
THE FIVE-STEP EVALUATION PROCESS
disabled under the Social Security Act, a claimant must meet
the following criteria:
[The] individual . . . [must have a] physical or mental
impairment or impairments . . . of such severity that he is
not only unable to do his previous work but cannot,
considering his age, education, and work experience, engage
in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in
the national economy, regardless of whether such work exists
in the immediate area in which he lives, or whether a
specific job vacancy exists for him, or whether he would be
hired if he applied for work. . . . '[W]ork which exists
in the national economy' means work which exists in
significant numbers either in the region where such
individual lives or in several regions of the country.
42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B). The
Social Security Administration uses the following five-step
sequential evaluation process to determine whether a claimant
(i) At the first step, we consider your work activity, if
any. If you are doing substantial gainful activity, we will
find that you are not disabled.
(ii) At the second step, we consider the medical severity of
your impairment(s). If you do not have a severe medically
determinable physical or mental impairment that meets the
duration requirement [of twelve months] . . . or a
combination of impairments that is severe and meets the
duration requirement, we will find that you are not disabled.
(iii) At the third step, we also consider the medical
severity of your impairments(s). If you have an impairment(s)
that meets or equals one of our listings . . . and meets the
duration requirement, we will find that you are disabled.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a). “If
your impairment(s) does not meet or equal a listed
impairment, we will assess and make a finding about your
residual functional capacity [(“RFC”)] based on
all the relevant medical and other evidence in your case
record, as explained in § 404.1545.” 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(e), 416.920 (e).
(iv) At the fourth step, we consider our assessment of your
[RFC] and your past relevant work. If you can still do your
past relevant work, we will find that you are not disabled.
(v) At the fifth and last step, we consider our assessment of
your [RFC] and your age, education, and work experience to
see if you can make an adjustment to other work. If you can
make an adjustment to other work, we will find that you are
not disabled. If you cannot make an adjustment to other work,
we will find that you are disabled.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a). In steps one
through four, the burden is on the claimant to prove that he
or she is disabled and that, as a result of the disability,
he or she is unable to engage in any gainful employment.
Richardson v. Califano, 574 F.2d 802, 804 (4th Cir.
1978). Once the claimant so proves, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner at step five to demonstrate that jobs exist in
the national economy that the claimant is capable of
performing. Hicks v. Gardner, 393 F.2d 299, 301 (4th
Cir. 1968). If the claimant is determined to be disabled ...