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Fox v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division

September 8, 2014

GARRETT FOX, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND RECOMMENDATION

DENNIS L. HOWELL, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to obtain judicial review of the final decision by the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's claim for social security disability insurance benefits. This case came before the Court on the administrative record and the parties' Motions for Summary Judgment [# 13 & # 15]. The Court RECOMMENDS that the District Court GRANT the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment [# 15], DENY Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [# 13], and AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision.

I. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits and an application for supplemental security income on March 31, 2011. (Transcript of Administrative Record ("T.") 174-91.) Plaintiff alleged an onset date of December 31, 2010. (T. 174.) The Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's claim. (T. 131-35.) Plaintiff requested reconsideration of the decision, which was also denied. (T. 136-45.) A disability hearing was then held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (T. 31-49.) At the hearing, Plaintiff amended his alleged onset date to August 1, 2009. (T. 32.) The ALJ then issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (T. 17-24.) Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision, which was denied by the Appeals Council (T. 1-6). Plaintiff then brought this action seeking review of the Commissioner's decision.

II. Standard for Determining Disability

An individual is disabled for purposes of receiving disability payments if he or she is unable to "engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months...." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); see also Mastro v. Apfel, 270 F.3d 171, 176 (4th Cir. 2001). The Commissioner undertakes a five-step inquiry to determine whether a claimant is disabled. Johnson v. Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650, 653 (4th Cir. 2005). Under this inquiry, the Commissioner must consider in sequence: (1) whether a claimant is gainfully employed; (2) whether a claimant has a severe impairment that significantly limits his ability to perform basic work-related functions; (3) whether the claimant's impairment meets or exceeds the listing of impairments contained in Appendix I of 20 C.F.R. Part 404, subpart P; (4) whether the claimant can perform his past relevant work; (5) whether the claimant is able to perform any other work considering his age, education, and residual functional capacity. Mastro, 270 F.3d at 177; Johnson, 434 F.3d at 654 n.1; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. If at any stage of the inquiry, the Commissioner determines that the claimant is or is not disabled, the inquiry is halted. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a) and 416.920(a).

III. The ALJ's Decision

In his May 2, 2012, decision the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled under Sections 216(i) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act. (T. 24.) The ALJ made the following specific findings:

(1) The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through September 30, 2013.
(2) The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 1, 2009, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq. ).
(3) The claimant has the following severe impairments: chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy and diabetes. (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 the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 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 never climbing ladders, ropes or scaffolds, never crouching, no more than occasional climbing ramps and stairs, occasional balancing, stooping, kneeling, or crawling; no more than occasional fingering bilaterally or frequent handling bilaterally; and no ...

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