United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division
TERRENCE W. BOYLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on the parties' cross-motions
for judgment on the pleadings, [D.E. 16, 18]. A hearing on
this matter was held in Raleigh, North Carolina on August 30,
2017. [D.E. 22]. For the reasons discussed below, this matter
is REMANDED for further consideration by the Commissioner.
November 26, 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. 12].
Plaintiff claimed that she was unable to work because of
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ("COPD"),
emphysema, chronic bronchitis, vertigo, status post colon
surgery, arterial plaque, high cholesterol, chronic back
pain, osteoporosis, numbness in feet, swelling in feet,
insomnia, depression, and anxiety. [Tr. 234], Plaintiff
further alleged a disability onset date of March 1, 2008.
[Tr. 235]. Plaintiffs applications were denied initially and
upon reconsideration. See [Tr. 131-47]. An
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") held a hearing on
January 15, 2015, to consider plaintiffs claims de
novo. [Tr. 25-45].
February 13, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision denying
plaintiffs claims. [Tr. 12-20]. On June 22, 2016, the Appeals
Council denied plaintiffs request for review, and the
ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final
decision. [Tr. 1-6]. On August 15, 2016, plaintiff filed a
complaint seeking judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). [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 Act, an individual is considered disabled if she 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. §
an individual shall be determined to be under a disability
only if [her] physical or mental impairment or impairments
are of such severity that [she] is not only unable to do
[her] previous work but cannot, considering [her] age,
education, and work experience, engage in any other line of
substantial gainful work ....
42 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). Ifa 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 her 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 her 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 and five days
per week. See SSR 96-8p; Hines v. Barnhart,
453 F.3d 559, 562 (4th Cir. 2006).
four, the ALJ considers a claimant's RFC to determine
whether she can perform past relevant work ("PRW")
despite her 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 her RFC, age,
education, and work experience-can make an adjustment to
perform other work. Id. To determine the available
occupations that a claimant could perform, the ALJ relies on
the Dictionary ofOccupational Titles
("DOT"). If ...