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Williams v. Colvin

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

February 15, 2015

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


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 supplemental security income. This case came before the Court on the administrative record and the parties' Motions for Summary Judgment [# 8 & # 13]. The Court RECOMMENDS that the District Court GRANT the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment [# 13], DENY Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [# 8], and AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision.

I. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security income on March 25, 2010. (Transcript of Administrative Record ("T.") 49-55.) Plaintiff alleged an onset date of May 1, 2008. (T. 49.) The Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's claim. (T. 45-8.) Plaintiff requested reconsideration of the decision, which was also denied. (T. 40-44.) A disability hearing was then held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (T. 802-27.) The ALJ then issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (T. 16-24.) Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision, which was denied by the Appeals Council (T. 6-8). 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 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 her 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 her past relevant work; (5) whether the claimant is able to perform any other work considering her 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 December 6, 2012, decision the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled under Section 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act. (T. 24.) The ALJ made the following specific findings:

(1) The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 30, 2009, the application date (20 CFR 416.971 et seq. ).
(2) The claimant has the following severe impairment: bilateral Morton's neuroma and minimal degenerative join changes of the feet, and asthma (20 CFR 416.920(c)).
(3) 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 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
(4) 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 416.967(b) with no climbing ladders, ropes and scaffolds; otherwise, occasional climbing ramps and stairs, balancing, stooping, crouching and crawling. She could perform no work around hazards such as unprotected heights and no work with more than occasional exposure to pulmonary irritants.
(5) The claimant has no past relevant work (20 CFR 416.965).
(6) The claimant was born on January 7, 1968 and was 41 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.963).
(7) The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 416.964).
(8) Transferability of job skills is not an issue because the claimant does not have past relevant work (20 CFR 416.968).
(9) Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 416.969 and 416.969(a))
(10) The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since December 30, 2009, the date the ...

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