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 October 17, 2016,
by David Martin McRoberts, Claimant (ECF No. 2). On March 17,
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
24, 2013, Claimant filed a Title II application for
disability and disability insurance benefits (DIB) alleging
disability beginning February 2, 2012. The claim was
denied initially on July 26, 2013, and again upon
reconsideration on November 19, 2013. On January 7, 2014,
Claimant filed a written request for a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
19, 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 June 26, 2015, the ALJ
denied Claimant's application for disability (Tr. at
14-25). On approximately August 24, 2015, Claimant filed a
request for review by the Appeals Council (AC) (Tr. at 9-10).
On September 22, 2016, the AC denied Claimant's request
for review (Tr. at 1-5). On October 17, 2016, Claimant filed
a complaint before the District Court.
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 April 1,
2013, and meets the insured status requirements through March
31, 2018 (Tr. at 16). Under the second inquiry, the ALJ found
that Claimant suffers from the severe impairments of:
degenerative joint disease with avascular necrosis in the
left hip, status post total replacement; torn meniscus of the
left knee; obesity; status post cerebrovascular accident;
cognitive disorder; status post testicular cancer with
metastases and radiation-induced cerebral vasculopathy; and
hearing loss. (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 18).
The ALJ then found that Claimant has a residual functional
capacity to perform work at the sedentary exertional level
except he should never climb ladders, ropes and scaffolds,
but can occasionally climb ramps and stairs. Claimant can
occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl. He can
have no exposure to unprotected heights or loud,
industrial-type background noise. Claimant can perform basic
two-to-three step tasks only (Tr. at 20). 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 assembler,
surveillance system monitor and sorter/inspector (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 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 July 16, 1967 (Tr. at 39). Claimant lives with
his parents in Peach Creek, West Virginia (Tr. at 38). He
graduated from high school and took two years of college