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Mack v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division

September 27, 2017

ELIJAH MACK, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          GRAHAM C. MULLEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court upon Plaintiff's Amended Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 8) and Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 9). Having carefully considered such motions and reviewed the pleadings, the court enters the following findings, conclusions, and Order.

         FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

         I. Administrative History

         Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits on December 15, 2014, alleging a disability onset date of December 15, 2014. Plaintiff subsequently amended his alleged onset date to January 22, 2015. Plaintiff's claim was denied both initially and on reconsideration. Thereafter, Plaintiff requested and was granted a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). After reviewing the record and conducting an in-person hearing, the ALJ issued a decision which was unfavorable to Plaintiff, from which Plaintiff appealed to the Appeals Council. Plaintiff's request for review was denied, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff timely filed this action, seeking judicial review of the ALJ's decision.

         II. Factual Background

         In his decision, the ALJ first determined that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date (Tr. 22). At the second step, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has the following combination of severe impairments: degenerative disease of the lumbar spine, degenerative joint disease of the hips, degenerative joint disease of the knees, status post fractures on the lower back, pelvis, and lower extremities, organic brain disorder secondary to traumatic brain injury, affective disorder, and anxiety disorder. Id. At the third step, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meet or medically equal the severity of one the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 23). However, in reaching this determination the ALJ did find that Plaintiff has moderate difficulties with regard to concentration, persistence, or pace. (Tr. 26).

         The ALJ then found that Plaintiff has residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work with the following limitations:

except that [Plaintiff] could stand and/or walk 4 out of 8 hours; frequently operate foot controls with the right lower extremity; frequently climb ramps/stairs, occasionally climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds, frequently stoop, and occasionally kneel, crouch, and crawl; perform simple, routine, repetitive tasks; have his time off task accommodated by normal breaks; have occasional public interaction; and tolerate few changes in the routine work setting.

(Tr 27). As a result, the ALJ found in the fourth step that Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work. (Tr. 45). However, at the fifth step, the ALJ concluded that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform, including wiper, marker, and electronic worker. (Tr. 45-46). Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is not disabled under the Act.

         III. Standard of Review

         The only issues on review are whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards and whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971); Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). Review by a federal court is not de novo, Smith v. Schwieker, 795 F.2d 343, 345 (4th Cir. 1986); rather, inquiry is limited to whether there was “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, ” Richardson, 402 U.S. at 400. Even if the undersigned were to find that a preponderance of the evidence weighed against the Commissioner's decision, the Commissioner's decision would have to be affirmed if supported by substantial evidence. Hays, 907 F.2d at 1456.

         IV. ...


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