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Scott v. Berryhill

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

February 7, 2017

LINDA C. SCOTT, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1]Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          L. Patrick Auld United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff, Linda C. Scott, brought this action pursuant to the Social Security Act (the “Act”) to obtain judicial review of a final decision of Defendant, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security, denying Plaintiff's claims for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). (Docket Entry 1.) Defendant has filed the certified administrative record (Docket Entry 8 (cited herein as “Tr. __”)), and both parties have moved for judgment (Docket Entries 12, 17; see also Docket Entry 13 (Plaintiff's Brief); Docket Entry 18 (Defendant's Memorandum); Docket Entry 19 (Plaintiff's Reply Brief)). For the reasons that follow, the Court should enter judgment for Defendant.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI, alleging an onset date of January 30, 2009. (Tr. 266-73.) Upon denial of those applications initially (Tr. 125-64, 209-13) and on reconsideration (Tr. 165-208, 214-22), Plaintiff requested a hearing de novo before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) (Tr. 223-24). Plaintiff, her attorney, and a vocational expert (“VE”) attended the hearing, during which Plaintiff amended her onset date to April 27, 2012, the day after an ALJ decision denying her prior claims for DIB and SSI. (See Tr. 40, 42, 285, 98-111.) The ALJ subsequently ruled that Plaintiff did not qualify as disabled under the Act. (Tr. 10-31.) The Appeals Council thereafter denied Plaintiff's request for review (Tr. 1-6, 7-9, 362-63), thereby making the ALJ's ruling the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of judicial review.

         In rendering that disability determination, the ALJ made the following findings later adopted by the Commissioner:

1. [Plaintiff] meets the insured status requirements of the [] Act through March 31, 2014.
2. [Plaintiff] has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 27, 2012, the amended onset date.
. . .
3. [Plaintiff] has the following severe impairments: multi-level degenerative disc disease without nerve root impingement; fibromyalgia; coronary artery disease; hypertension; bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, status-post release surgery; sarcoidosis; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease/asthma; post-traumatic stress disorder; panic disorder; somatization disorder; depression; bipolar disorder; personality disorder; cephalgia/migraine headaches secondary to cerebrospinal fluid leak; diabetes mellitus; gout; fatty liver; gastroesophageal reflux disease; sleep apnea; obesity.
. . .
4. [Plaintiff] 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.
. . .
5. . . . [Plaintiff] has the residual functional capacity to perform light work . . . with the following provisos: [Plaintiff] is limited to frequent use of the upper extremities bilaterally for pushing, pulling, operating hand controls, handling, fingering, and /or feeling. [Plaintiff] is limited to occasional use of her left lower extremity for pushing, pulling, and/or operating foot controls. [Plaintiff] must avoid concentrated exposure to pulmonary irritants, such as fumes, odors, dusts, gases, poor ventilation and the like, as well as concentrated exposure to temperature extremes of heat and humidity. [Plaintiff] must avoid even moderate exposure to workplace hazards, such as dangerous moving machinery and unprotected heights. [Plaintiff] can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but never ladders, ropes or scaffolds. [Plaintiff] can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and/or crawl. [Plaintiff] can understand and perform simple, routine, repetitive tasks and maintain concentration, persistence and pace to stay on task for 2-hour periods over the course of a typical 8-hour workday in order to perform such tasks. [Plaintiff] requires a low stress work setting, which, in addition to the nature of the work being performed, is further defined to mean no production-pace or quota-based work, rather a goal-oriented job primarily dealing with things as opposed to people, with no more than occasional work with the public as a component of the job, and no more than occasional changes in the work setting. [Plaintiff] requires a sit/stand option that allows for the change of position at 30-minute intervals, in addition to normal work breaks.
. . .
6. [Plaintiff] is unable to perform any past relevant work.
. . .
10. Considering [Plaintiff's] age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that [Plaintiff] can perform.
. . .
11. [Plaintiff] has not been under a disability, as defined in the [] Act, from April 27, 2012, through the date of this decision.

(Tr. 15-31 (bold font and internal parenthetical citations omitted).)

         II. ...


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