United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION
L. Tinsley United States Magistrate Judge
before this Court is Plaintiff's Brief in Support of
Complaint and Motion for Remand (ECF No. 12) and
Defendant's Brief in Support of Defendant's Decision
(ECF No. 13). This is an action seeking remand for further
explanation of the decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security denying Claimant's application for disability
insurance benefits (DIB) under Title II and supplemental
security income (SSI) under Title XVI of the Social Security
Act for further explanation (ECF No. 12).
Melissa Beth Myers, filed applications for DIB and SSI on
January 3, 2013. Claimant alleged disability beginning
January 2, 2013. The claims were denied initially on October
1, 2013, and upon reconsideration on December 11, 2013. On
February 11, 2014, Claimant filed a request for hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge. A video hearing was held
on September 29, 2015. Claimant appeared in Mt. Hope, West
Virginia, and the Administrative Law Judge presided over the
video hearing from Roanoke, Virginia. The approximately
January 29, 2016, Claimant filed a Request for Review of the
Decision with the Appeals Council (Tr. at 8). The Appeals
Council (AC) denied Claimant's request for review on
January 27, 2017 (Tr. at 6 - 9). Subsequently, Claimant
brought the present action seeking judicial review of the
administrative decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
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 and 416.920 (2017). If an
individual is found "not disabled" at any step,
further inquiry is unnecessary. Id. ''
404.1520(a) and 416.920(a). The first inquiry under the
sequence is whether a claimant is currently engaged in
substantial gainful employment. Id. ''
404.1520(b) and 416.920(b). If the claimant is not, the
second inquiry is whether claimant suffers from a severe
impairment. Id. '' 404.1520(c) and
416.920(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) and 416.920(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) and 416.920(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) and 416.920(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. 1976).
particular case, the ALJ determined that Claimant satisfied
the first inquiry because she has not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since January 3, 2013, the application date
(Tr. at 16). Under the second inquiry, the ALJ found that
Claimant suffers from the severe impairments of chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)/asthma, diabetes
mellitus, arthralgia in the knees and back disorder.
(Id.) At the third inquiry, the ALJ concluded that
Claimant's impairments do not meet or equal the level of
severity of any listing in Appendix 1 (Tr. at 17). The ALJ
then found that Claimant has a residual functional capacity
for medium work (Tr. at 18). The ALJ held that Claimant
has no past relevant work; therefore, transferability of job
skills is not an issue (Tr. at 20, 21). The ALJ held that
Claimant could perform the jobs of a packer, warehouse worker
and bagger (Tr. at 21). The ALJ denied Claimant's
applications for disability on December 1, 2015 (Tr. at 22).
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. Cellebreze, 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 is not supported by substantial evidence.
was born on July 3, 1978, and was 37 years old on the date of
the hearing (Tr. at 33). Claimant last completed the
11th grade. Claimant lives with her daughter and
her 4 year old grandson (Tr. at 43). On the date of the
hearing, Claimant's son was 12 years old. Claimant's
mother “helped” raise her son and he stays
frequently at Claimant's mother's house (Tr. at
35-36). Claimaint's mother and aunt help taking
Claimant's son to functions (Tr. at 36).
medical record has been adopted, as set out in the
Claimant's Brief and Defendant's Brief, to the extent
Claimant underwent treatment by Dr. Durham, a pulmonologist,
every three to six months during the relevant period from her
alleged onset date of January 2, 2013, until December 1,
2015, the date of the ALJ's decision. During this period,
Dr. Durham noted that Claimant had a history of COPD,
diabetes mellitus, venous insufficiency, occasional coughing,
nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hematuria, dysuria, dysphagia,
reflux, recurrent chest infections, oral thrush, and
neuropathy (Tr. at 374, 377, 380, 383, 386, 389, 393). On
examination, Claimant had decreased breath sounds without
rales, rhonchi, or wheezes; no percussion changes; normal
chest excursions; and normal anterior-posterior diameter (Tr.
at 375, 378, 381, 384, 387, 390, 394). Dr. Durham diagnosed
dyspnea with environmental exposure, dyspnea at rest and with
exertion, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, Type 2 diabetes
mellitus, backache, polyneuropathy, and fatigue (Tr. at 376,
378-79, 383, 385, 388, ...