United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION
before this Court are Plaintiff's Memorandum in Brief in
Support of Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (ECF No. 10),
Defendant's Brief in Support of Defendant's Decision
(ECF No.11) and Plaintiff's Reply to Brief in Support of
Defendant's Decision (ECF No. 12).
April 10, 2013, Claimant applied for disability and
disability insurance benefits (DIB) under Title II and
supplemental security income (SSI) under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act. Claimant alleges that her disability
began on February 3, 2009. Her applications were denied
initially on July 17, 2013, and upon consideration on
November 6, 2013. On December 10, 2013, Claimant filed a
request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ). On April 16, 2015, an ALJ presided over a video
hearing from Charleston, West Virginia. Claimant appeared in
Parkersburg, West Virginia. On May 25, 2015, the ALJ issued a
decision denying Claimant's applications (Tr. at 13-26).
On July 22, 2015, Claimant requested review by the Appeals
Council (AC) of the ALJ's decision (Tr. at 8). On
September 30, 2016, the AC denied Claimant's request for
review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of
the Commissioner. Claimant filed the instant action seeking
judicial review and requesting remand of the ALJ's
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) (2017). 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 meets the
insured status requirements of the Social Security Act
through September 30, 2013 (Tr. at 15). The ALJ found that
Claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since February 3, 2009. Under the second inquiry, the ALJ
found that Claimant suffers from the severe impairments of:
cervical degenerative disc disease; degenerative joint
disease/osteoarthritis of the left hip; obesity; major
depressive disorder; anxiety disorder; and substance
addiction disorder in early full remission. (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 sedentary
(Tr. at 19). At the fifth inquiry of the sequential
evaluation, the ALJ found that Claimant is unable to perform
any past relevant work (Tr. at 24). The ALJ found that
Claimant could perform jobs such as inspector, security
monitor and bench assembly (Tr. at 25). Therefore, the ALJ
denied Claimant's applications.
Claimant brought the present action seeking judicial review
of the administrative decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
of Review The 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:
[E]vidence 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 Amust 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
Background Claimant was born on May 4, 1974 (Tr. at 45).
On the date of the hearing, Claimant stood at 5 foot 2 inches
and weighed 260 pounds. (Id.) She lives with her
father. Claimant has a driver's license and drives once
or twice a week (Tr. at 46). Claimant has an Associate's
degree in liberal arts. (Id.)
court has reviewed all evidence of record, including the
medical evidence of record, and will ...