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Trammell v. Berryhill

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

August 24, 2017

DOLORES J. TRAMMELL, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          Joe L. Webster Judge.

         Plaintiff Dolores J. Trammell brought this action to obtain review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security[1] denying her claims for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI"). The Court has before it the certified administrative record[2] and cross-motions for judgment.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI in October of 2012 alleging a disability onset date of April 4, 2012. (Tr. 15, 34, 200-210.) The applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. (Id. at 113-16, 124-31, 132-41.) Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (Id. at 142-43.) After a hearing, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled. (Id. at 15-26, 34-50.) The Appeals Council denied a request for review, making the ALJ's determination the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of review. (Id. at 3-7.)

         II. STANDARD FOR REVIEW

         The scope of judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision is specific and narrow. Smith v. Schweiker, 795 F.2d 343, 345 (4th Cir. 1986). Review is limited to determining if there is substantial evidence in the record to support the Commissioner's decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Hunter v. Sullivan, 993 F.2d 31, 34 (4th Cir. 1992); Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). In reviewing for substantial evidence, the Court does not re-weigh conflicting evidence, make credibility determinations, or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589 (4th Cir. 1996). The issue before the Court, therefore, is not whether Plaintiff is disabled but whether the Commissioner's finding that she is not disabled is supported by substantial evidence and was reached based upon a correct application of the relevant law. Id.

         III. THE ALJ'S DECISION

         The ALJ followed the sequential analysis, which is set forth in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 and 416.920., to ascertain whether the claimant is disabled. See Albright v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 174 F.3d 473, 475 n.2 (4th Cir. 1999).[3] The ALJ determined at step one that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the April 4, 2012 alleged onset date. (Tr. 17.) The ALJ next found the following severe impairments at step two: arthritis, obesity, affective disorder, and anxiety-related disorder. (Id.) At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments listed in, or medically equal to, one listed in Appendix 1. (Id.)

         The ALJ next set forth Plaintiffs Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC") and determined that she could perform

work that involves lifting no more than 50 pounds at a time with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing up to 25 pounds; pushing or pulling similar amounts; sitting, standing, and walking for 6 hours each; no more than frequent postural activity; no more than occasional interaction with supervisors and coworkers but no more than superficial/incidental contact with the public, such as sharing common areas like hallways and elevators; no more than simple, routine, repetitive tasks performed with a pace and stress tolerance that allows for no production quotas.

(Id. at 20.) The ALJ made no finding at step four, concluding that the evidence was insufficient to do so. (Id. at 25.) Last, at step five, the ALJ determined that there were jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. (Id.) Consequently, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled.

         IV. ISSUES AND ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff raises a number of issues in her brief. In pertinent part, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ materially erred in not giving the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services' ("NCDHHS") determination that she was eligible for Medicaid disability proper consideration under Social Security Ruling ("SSR") 06-03p. (Docket Entry ...


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