United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
VICTORIA L. SALERNO-BOLTON, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,  Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
JOI ELIZABETH PEAKE, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff Victoria Salerno-Bolton ("Plaintiff") brought this action pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended (42 U.S.C. § 405(g)), to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act (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 filed her application for Disability Insurance Benefits on February 2, 2005, alleging a disability onset date of March 1, 2003. (Tr. 129-31) Her application was denied initially (Tr. at 93-97) and upon reconsideration (Tr. at 88-90). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a hearing de novo before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (Tr. at 87.) Plaintiff's attorney and an impartial vocational expert attended the subsequent hearing on January 23, 2008. (Tr. at 57.) Plaintiff, however, did not appear. (Tr. at 14, 61.)
Although the ALJ ultimately determined that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act (Tr. at 62), the Appeals Council subsequently granted Plaintiff's request for review of the decision and remanded the case for a supplemental hearing (Tr. at 46-49). Plaintiff's counsel withdrew just prior to the supplemental hearing on November 18, 2009, and Plaintiff elected to proceed without the assistance of an attorney or other representative. (Tr. at 14.) Following the hearing, at which an impartial vocational expert again testified, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's claim. (Tr. at 14-30.) Thereafter the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the decision, making the ALJ's conclusion the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of judicial review. (Tr. at 2-5.)
In rendering his disability determination on remand, 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 March 1, 2003, the claimant's alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq. ....)
4. The claimant has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease; ulnar nerve palsy and status post decompression; bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, status post bilateral carpal tunnel release surgery; obesity; depression; and somatoform disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c)....)
5. 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 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526....)
6. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a wide range of "light" work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b)... except the claimant is limited to positions requiring only occasional climbing, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching and ...