United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION
L. Tinsley, United States Magistrate Judge.
before this Court is a complaint filed on December 20, 2016,
by Christy Denise Miller, Claimant (ECF No. 2). On March 13,
2017, Defendant filed an Answer to the Complaint (ECF No. 7).
Claimant did not file a Motion in Support of Judgement on the
Pleadings and Defendant did not file a Brief in Support of
the Defendant's Decision; therefore, the Proposed
Findings and Recommendation will be made on the merits of the
August 2, 2012, Claimant filed a Title II application for
disability and disability insurance benefits (DIB) alleging
disability beginning January 24, 2012. The Claim was denied
initially on December 10, 2012, and again upon
reconsideration on December 4, 2013. On January 31, 2014,
Claimant filed a written request for a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
25, 2015, an ALJ held a video hearing. Claimant appeared in
Logan, West Virginia and the ALJ presided over the hearing
from Charleston, West Virginia. On July 21, 2015, the ALJ
denied Claimant's application for disability (Tr. at
10-25). On August 6, 2015, Claimant filed a request for
review by the Appeals Council (AC) (Tr. at 6). On October 21,
2016, the AC 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”
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 1-2). The Order of Appeals Council dated October 21, 2016
(Tr. at 5), made the following additional evidence part of
Exhibit 12E Representative Brief, September 21, 2015 (4
Exhibit 13F Attorney/Representative Supplied Evidence,
Dolores D. Santamaria, M.D., July 25, 2014-August 31, 2015
December 20, 2016, Claimant filed a complaint before the
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 she has not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since the alleged onset date of January 24,
2012, and meets the insured status requirements through June
30, 2017 (Tr. at 12). Under the second inquiry, the ALJ found
that Claimant suffers from the severe impairment of
degenerative disc disease of the spine with a herniated disc
of the lumbar spine status post laminectomy with history of
cauda equine syndrome and obesity. (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 15). The ALJ then found that Claimant has
a residual functional capacity to perform work at the light
exertional level except she should only occasionally balance,
stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl and climb ramps, stairs, ladders,
ropes or scaffolds (Tr. at 16-17). Claimant should avoid
concentrated exposure to extreme cold, extreme heat,
excessive vibration and pulmonary irritants such as fumes,
odors, dusts, gases and poorly ventilated areas. Lastly, the
ALJ found that Claimant should avoid concentrated exposure to
hazards including use of moving machinery and exposure to
unprotected heights (Tr. at 17). The ALJ held that Claimant
is unable to perform any past relevant work (Tr. at 24). The
ALJ held that Claimant could perform the requirements of
representative occupations such as: a non-postal mail clerk;
a clerical assistant; and a merchandise marker (Tr. at 25) 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 ...