United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
L. Tinsley, United States Magistrate Judge.
an action seeking review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security denying the Plaintiff's
applications for disability insurance benefits (DIB) under
Title II and supplemental security income (SSI) under Title
XVI of the Social Security Act. By standing order, this case
was referred to this United States Magistrate Judge to
consider the pleadings and evidence, and to submit proposed
findings of fact and recommendations for disposition, all
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). Presently pending
before this Court are Plaintiff's Brief in Support of
Judgment on the Pleadings (ECF No. 14) and Defendant's
Brief in Support of Defendant's Decision (ECF No. 15).
Kenard Coleman (hereinafter referred to as Claimant), applied
for SSI on May 21, 2013, and DIB on May 23, 2013, alleging
disability beginning February 28, 2012. The claims were
denied initially on August 14, 2013, and upon reconsideration
on October 31, 2013. Thereafter, Claimant filed a written
request for a hearing before an administrative law judge
(ALJ) on November 5, 2013. A video hearing was held on
February 11, 2015, with the Claimant appearing in Huntington,
West Virginia, and the ALJ presiding over the hearing from
St. Louis, Missouri. On February 23, 2015, the ALJ denied
Claimant's applications. On April 27, 2015, Claimant
filed a request for review of the hearing decision by the
Appeals Council (AC) (Tr. At 8). On July 29, 2016, the
Appeals Council denied Claimant's request for review (Tr.
at 1-5). The AC stated “We found no reason under our
rules to review the Administrative Law Judge's
decision” (Tr. at 1) and “In looking at your
case, we considered the reasons you disagree with the
decision and the additional evidence listed on the enclosed
Order of Appeals Council” (Tr. at 2). The Order of
Appeals Council dated July 29, 2016 (Tr. at 6), made the
following additional evidence part of the record:
Exhibit 14E Representative Brief submitted by J.T. Meisel,
Esq., dated April 27, 2015.
Exhibit 17F Medical Records from Marshall Health, dated
February 9, 2015.
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(5), a claimant for disability has the
burden of proving a disability. See Blalock v.
Richardson, 483 F.2d 773, 774 (4th Cir. 1972). A
disability is defined as the "inability to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable impairment which can be expected to last for a
continuous period of not less than 12 months . . . ." 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
Social Security Regulations establish a "sequential
evaluation" for the adjudication of disability claims.
20 C.F.R.' 404.1520 (2016). If an individual is found
"not disabled" at any step, further inquiry is
unnecessary. Id. ' 404.1520(a). The first
inquiry under the sequence is whether a claimant is currently
engaged in substantial gainful employment. Id. '
404.1520(b). If the claimant is not, the second inquiry is
whether claimant suffers from a severe impairment.
Id. ' 404.1520(c). If a severe impairment is
present, the third inquiry is whether such impairment meets
or equals any of the impairments listed in Appendix 1 to
Subpart P of the Administrative Regulations No. 4.
Id. ' 404.1520(d). If it does, the claimant is
found disabled and awarded benefits. Id. If it does
not, the fourth inquiry is whether the claimant's
impairments prevent the performance of past relevant work.
Id. ' 404.1520(e). By satisfying inquiry four,
the claimant establishes a prima facie case of
disability. Hall v. Harris, 658 F.2d 260, 264 (4th
Cir. 1981). The burden then shifts to the Commissioner,
McLain v. Schweiker, 715 F.2d 866, 868-69 (4th Cir.
1983), and leads to the fifth and final inquiry: whether the
claimant is able to perform other forms of substantial
gainful activity, considering claimant's remaining
physical and mental capacities and claimant's age,
education and prior work experience. 20 C.F.R.'
404.1520(f) (2016). The Commissioner must show two things:
(1) that the claimant, considering claimant's age,
education, work experience, skills and physical shortcomings,
has the capacity to perform an alternative job, and (2) that
this specific job exists in the national economy.
McLamore v. Weinberger, 538 F.2d 572, 574 (4th Cir.
particular case, the ALJ determined that Claimant satisfied
the first inquiry because he has not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since the alleged onset date of February 28,
2012, and meets the insured status requirements through March
31, 2016 (Tr. at 14). Under the second inquiry, the ALJ found
that Claimant suffers from the severe impairment of pulmonary
nodules, status post left radial orchiectomy secondary to a
diagnosis of a left testicular mass, chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and hepatitis C.
(Id.) At the third inquiry, the ALJ concluded that
Claimant did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the level of
severity of any listing in Appendix 1 (Tr. at 16). The ALJ
then found that Claimant has a residual functional capacity
to perform work at the light exertional level except he
cannot climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds, and can only
occasionally climb ramps or stairs, stoop, crouch, crawl or
kneel. He must further avoid concentrated exposure to extreme
cold, fumes, odors, dusts, gases, perfumes, finger nail
polish, incense, candles and poor ventilation (Tr. at 16-17).
The ALJ held that Claimant is unable to perform any past
relevant work (Tr. at 19). The ALJ held that Claimant could
perform the requirements of representative occupations such
as price marker, small parts assembler and house sitter (Tr.
at 20). On this basis, benefits were denied. (Id.)
sole issue before this court is whether the final decision of
the Commissioner denying the claim is supported by
substantial evidence. In Blalock v. Richardson,
substantial evidence was defined as:
Evidence which a reasoning mind would accept as sufficient to
support a particular conclusion. It consists of more than a
mere scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less than a
preponderance. If there is evidence to justify a refusal to
direct a verdict were the case before a jury, then there is
Blalock v. Richardson, 483 F.2d 773, 776 (4th Cir.
1972) (quoting Laws v. Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640, 642
(4th Cir. 1966)). Additionally, the Commissioner, not the
court, is charged with resolving conflicts in the evidence.
Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir.
1990). Nevertheless, the courts “must not abdicate
their traditional functions; they cannot escape their duty to
scrutinize the record as a whole to determine whether the
conclusions reached are rational.” Oppenheim v.
Finch, 495 F.2d 396, 397 (4th Cir. 1974).
careful review of the record reveals the decision of the
Commissioner in this case is not supported by substantial
was born on September 16, 1979. He last completed the ninth
grade (Tr. at 36). On the date of the hearing Claimant was
thirty-five years old (Tr. at 35).
court has reviewed all evidence of record, including the
medical evidence, and will discuss ...