United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
SHERRIE A. GARBER, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,  Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
JOI ELIZABETH PEAKE, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff, Sherrie Garber, brought this action pursuant to Sections 205(g) and 1631(c)(3) of the Social Security Act (the "Act"), as amended (42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3)), to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her claims for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income under, respectively, Titles II and XVI of the Act. The parties have filed cross-motions for judgment, and the administrative record has been certified to the Court for review.
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff protectively filed her applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income on September 26, 2006, alleging a disability onset date of July 1, 2003. (Tr. 59, 161.) Her applications were denied initially (Tr. at 59, 60) and upon reconsideration (Tr. at 61, 62). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a hearing de novo before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (Tr. at 94.) Plaintiff, along with her attorney and a vocational expert ("VE"), attended the subsequent hearing on March 19, 2009. (Tr. at 12.) The ALJ ultimately determined that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act (Tr. at 27) and, on February 19, 2010, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the decision, thereby making the ALJ's conclusion the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of judicial review (Tr. at 1-4).
In rendering his disability determination, the ALJ made the following findings later adopted by the Commissioner:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2008.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 1, 2003, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq. ).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: Bipolar disorder; post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); anxiety; depression; fibromyalgia; lumbar spine disorder; mild tremors; bursitis of the right hip; and history of polysubstance abuse (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.925 and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except her ability to climb ramps or stairs is limited to that needed for building access. She cannot climb ropes, ladders or scaffolding and is limited to occasional bending. She cannot work around unprotected heights and must avoid concentrated exposure to temperature extremes, particularly cold. She is limited to occasionally working with the public and/or co workers [sic] but can work with supervisors as needed. She is limited to noncomplex, routine, repetitive tasks and is unable to perform work with a production rate involving piece work.
(Tr. at 14-16.)
The ALJ then considered Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and the above residual functional capacity ("RFC"), along with the VE's testimony regarding these factors, and determined that, although Plaintiff was unable to perform any of her past relevant work, she could perform other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. at 25-26.) Plaintiff therefore was not under a ...