United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division
JEFFERY T. ROYAL, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
TERRENCE W. BOYLE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on the parties' cross-motions
for judgment on the pleadings. [D.E. 19, 21]. A hearing on
this matter was held in Edenton, North Carolina on August 31,
2017. [D.E. 26]. For the reasons discussed below, this matter
is REMANDED for further consideration by the Commissioner.
November 28, 2012, plaintiff filed applications for
disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social
Security Act ("Act") and supplemental security
income benefits under Title XVI of the Act. [Tr. 27].
Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of April 12, 2008,
due to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, sleep issues,
and a heart attack. [Tr. 229-37, 271]. Plaintiffs
applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration.
[Tr. 86-87, 116-17]. On February 19, 2015, plaintiff amended
his alleged disability onset date to November 20, 2012. [Tr.
February 26, 2015, an Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ") held a video hearing to consider plaintiffs
claims de novo. [Tr. 43-59]. On April 21, 2015, the
ALJ issued a decision finding that plaintiff was not disabled
within the meaning of the Act. [Tr. 27-37]. On July 28, 2016,
the Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request for review,
rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. [Tr. 1-4]. On September 21, 2016, plaintiff
filed a complaint seeking review of the Commissioner's
final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). [D.E. 6].
district court's review of the Commissioner's final
decision is limited to determining whether the correct legal
standard was applied and whether, based on the entire
administrative record, there is substantial evidence to
support the Commissioner's findings. 42 U.S.C. §
405(g); Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401
(1971). Substantial evidence is defined as "such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion." Johnson v.
Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650, 653 (4th Cir. 2005) (per curiam)
(internal quotation and citation omitted).
the Social Security Act ("Act"), an individual is
disabled if he 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 [twelve] months." 42
U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). Further:
an individual shall be determined to be under a disability
only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are
of such severity that he is not only unable to do his
previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and
work experience, engage in any other line of substantial
gainful work ....
U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).
engages in a sequential five-step evaluation process to make
an initial disability determination. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a); see Johnson, 434 F.3d at 653. The
burden of proof is on the claimant for the first four steps
of this inquiry, but shifts to the Commissioner at the fifth
step. Pass v. Chater, 65 F.3d 1200, 1203 (4th Cir.
1995). If a decision regarding the claimant's disability
can be made at any step of the process, the ALJ's inquiry
ceases. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4).
evaluating adults, the ALJ denies the claim at step one if
the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful
activity. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). At step two, the
ALJ denies the claim if the claimant does not have a severe
impairment or combination of impairments significantly
limiting him from performing basic work activities.
Id. At step three, the ALJ compares the
claimant's impairment to those in the Listing of
Impairments. See 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App.
1. If the impairment is listed, or equivalent to a listed
impairment, disability is conclusively presumed without
considering the claimant's age, education, and work
experience. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(d). However, if the
impairment does not meet or equal a listed impairment, the
ALJ then makes a residual functional capacity
("RFC") finding. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(e).
making an RFC finding, the ALJ's considers both severe
and non-severe impairments, and any combination thereof, and
takes into account both objective medical evidence as well as
subjective complaints of pain and limitations. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1545(e). The ALJ further considers the
claimant's ability to meet the physical, mental, sensory,
and other requirements of accomplishing work. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1545(a)(4). An RFC finding is meant to reflect the
most that a claimant can do, despite his limitations. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1). Moreover, an RFC finding should
reflect the claimant's ability to perform sustained
work-related activities in a work setting on regular and
continuing basis, meaning eight-hours per day, five days per
week. See SSR 96-8p; Hines v. Bamhart, 453
F.3d 559, 562 (4th Cir. 2006).
four, the ALJ considers a claimant's RFC to determine
whether he can perform past relevant work ("PRW")
despite his impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). If
not, the ALJ proceeds to step five of the analysis:
establishing whether the claimant-based on his RFC, age,
education, and work experience-can make an adjustment to
perform other work. Id. If the ...