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Druckemiller v. Berryhill

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

August 16, 2017

ISIS DRUCKEMILLER, 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, Isis Druckemiller, 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 claim for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). (Docket Entry 2.) Defendant has filed the certified administrative record (Docket Entry 9 (cited herein as “Tr. ”)), and both parties have moved for judgment (Docket Entries 12, 14; see also Docket Entry 13 (Plaintiff's Memorandum); Docket Entry 15 (Defendant's Memorandum)). For the reasons that follow, the Court should enter judgment for Defendant.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff applied for SSI. (Tr. 322-30.)[2] Upon denial of that application initially (Tr. 173-83, 185, 223-31) and on reconsideration (Tr. 196-209, 211, 233-42), Plaintiff requested a hearing de novo before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) (Tr. 72, 243-45). Plaintiff, her non-attorney representative, and a vocational expert (“VE”) attended the hearing. (Tr. 32-70.) The ALJ subsequently ruled that Plaintiff did not qualify as disabled under the Act. (Tr. 10-25.) The Appeals Council thereafter denied Plaintiff's request for review (Tr. 1-7, 8-9, 454-56), 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] has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 22, 2014, the amended onset date.
2. [Plaintiff] has the following severe impairments: bipolar disorder/major depressive disorder; learning disorder by history; personality disorder; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); generalized anxiety disorder; history of ventricular-peritoneal shunt with headaches.
3. [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.
4. . . . [Plaintiff] has the residual functional capacity to perform a full rage of work at all exertional levels, but with the following non-exertional limitations: [Plaintiff] can generally understand and perform simple, routine, repetitive tasks; she can maintain concentration, persistence and pace to stay on task for 2-hour periods over [the] course of [a] typical 8-hour workday with normal breaks, in a low stress work setting, which is further defined to mean no production-pace or quota-based work, rather a goal-oriented job primarily dealing with things rather than people; with no more than occasional changes in the work setting; and no more than occasional social interaction with supervisors and/or coworkers; but no work with the public as part of the job, such as sales or negotiation, though incidental or[]casual contact as it might arise in the workday is not precluded.
5. [Plaintiff] has no past relevant work. . . .
9. 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.
10. [Plaintiff] has not been under a disability, as defined in the [Act], from April 22, 2014, the amended onset date, through the date of this decision.

(Tr. 16-25 (bold font and internal parenthetical citations omitted).)

         II. DISCUSSION

         Federal law “authorizes judicial review of the Social Security Commissioner's denial of social security benefits.” Hines v. Barnhart, 453 F.3d 559, 561 (4th Cir. 2006). However, “the scope of [the Court's] review of [such a] decision . . . is extremely limited.” Frady v. Harris, 646 F.2d 143, 144 (4th Cir. 1981). ...


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