United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division
D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for
Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 11) and Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 19). For the reasons set forth
below, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Summary
Judgment, GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment,
and AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision.
filed an application for Supplemental Security Income
Benefits under Title XVI of 42 U.S.C. § 1383, on
December 10, 2010, alleging disability onset date of
September 3, 2010. (Tr. 291.) The claim was initially denied
by the Social Security Administration on April 8, 2011, (Tr.
162-165), and again on November 21, 2012. (Tr. 141-54.)
Plaintiff timely requested a hearing, which was held on June
2, 2014, by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).
December 4, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff
was not disabled. (Tr. 11-26.) Specifically, the ALJ
determined Plaintiff had not engaged in any substantial
gainful activity since November 18, 2010 (Tr. 13), and that
she had the following severe impairments: status post
craniotomy due to brain mass, headaches, chronic back and hip
arthralgias, degenerative disc disease, cervical spine,
decreased hearing of the left ear, alleged cognitive issues,
depression, anxiety, status post right carpal tunnel release,
double vision, left congenital nerve palsy and obesity. (Tr.
13-14.) The ALJ reviewed the listed impairments and found
none of the conditions, standing alone or in combination, met
the requirements for any of the listings in 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 14.)
found Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”) would allow her to perform light work,
except that she would be limited to:
frequent handling, fingering; occasional climbing of ramps
and stairs; occasional balancing, stooping, crouching,
crawling, and kneeling; no climbing ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds; occasional fine hearing; frequent near acuity; no
more than moderate exposure to noise; no driving an
automobile for completion of job tasks; performing simple
routine repetitive tasks; no contact with the public;
occasional contact with co-workers and supervisors; routine
changes; and non-production oriented.
(Tr. 17.) While these restrictions precluded Plaintiff from
resuming her past relevant work, the ALJ found there were
other forms of work Plaintiff could perform, taking into
consideration her age, education, work experience, and RFC.
(Tr. 24-25.) Accordingly, the ALJ ruled that Plaintiff was
not disabled. (Tr. 26.) Plaintiff requested review by an
Appeals Council (Tr. 1), which denied Plaintiff's
request. (Id.) Plaintiff then timely filed this
action seeking judicial review.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
for the purposes of the Social Security Administration is
defined as “the inability to do any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment [or combination of impairments] 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
twelve months.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a). To
determine disability, the Commission uses a five step
sequential evaluation process. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4). First, the Commission considers whether the
claimant is performing “substantial gainful
activity.” Id. Second, if the claimant is not
participating in “substantial gainful activity, ”
the Commission considers the medical severity of the
claimant's impairment(s). Id. The claimant must
have a medical impairment, or combination of impairments,
that is severe and meets the duration requirements.
Id. (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1509). Third, if
the Commission determines the claimant's impairment meets
the requirements of one of the Social Security listings as
well as the duration requirements of 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4), the claimant will be considered disabled.
Id. Otherwise, the Commission moves to the fourth
step: assessing the claimant's RFC to determine if the
claimant is disabled from his past type of employment.
Id. If the claimant is unable to perform his past
relevant work, the Commission's fifth step is to
determine whether, based on the claimant's RFC, age,
education, and work experience, the claimant is able to make
an adjustment to other work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4).
If so, the claimant will be determined to be not disabled. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1560(c).
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and §
1383(c)(3), limits this Court's review of a final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security to: (1)
whether substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's
decision, Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401
(1971), and (2) whether the Commissioner applied the correct
legal standards. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006); Hays v.
Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990); see
also Hunter v. Sullivan, 993 F.2d 31, 34 (4th Cir.
1992). The scope of review of such a decision is
“extremely limited.” Frady v. Harris,
646 F.2d 143, 144 (4th Cir. 1981). “The findings of the
Commissioner . . . as to any fact, if supported by
substantial evidence, shall be conclusive.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence
as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion; it consists of more than a mere scintilla of
evidence but may be somewhat less than a preponderance.
Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d. 585, 589 (4th Cir. 1996)
(quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401
(1971)); Smith v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1176, 1179 (4th
Fourth Circuit has long emphasized it is not for a reviewing
court to weigh the evidence again, nor to substitute its
judgment for that of the Commissioner. Hays, 907
F.2d at 1456; see also Smith v. Schweiker, 795 F.2d
at 345; Blalock, 483 F.2d at 775. This is true even
if the reviewing court disagrees with the outcome, so long as
there is substantial evidence in the record to support the
final decision below. Lester v. Schweiker, 683 F.2d
838, 841 (4th Cir. 1982).
raises three assignments of error with this Court, arguing
that: (1) the ALJ failed to conduct a function-by-function
analysis when assessing Plaintiff's RFC; (2) the ALJ
failed to discuss Plaintiff's ability to stay on task for
a full workday or attend work consistently through the work
week; and (3) new and material evidence from Plaintiff's
neurologist warrants a ...