United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Ashville Division
C. Mullen United States District Judge
MATTER is before the Court upon Plaintiff's
Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 11) and
Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 13).
Having carefully considered such motions and reviewed the
pleadings, the court enters the following findings,
conclusions, and Order.
filed an application for a period of disability and
Disability Insurance Benefits on February 28, 2012, alleging
a disability onset date of April 24, 2009. Plaintiff's
claim was denied both initially and on reconsideration. On
July 23, 2014, the Appeals Council remanded Plaintiff's
case. The ALJ held hearings on February 23, 2015 and April
13, 2015. On May 28, 2015, 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 and the ALJ's decision affirmed by the Appeals
Council, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”). Thereafter, Plaintiff timely
filed this action.
decision, the ALJ first concluded that Plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 24, 2009.
(Tr. 25). At the second step, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff had
the following severe impairments: obesity, hypothyroidism,
anemia, obstructive sleep apnea, mild social anxiety, and
mild depression. Id. At the third step, the ALJ
found that the Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled any
of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1. (Tr. 27). The ALJ specifically found
that the Plaintiff had moderate difficulties in social
functioning, and moderate difficulties in maintaining
concentration, persistence or pace. (Tr. 28).
then found that Plaintiff retained the residual functional
capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional
levels but with the following non-exertional limitations:
“she can occasionally climb ladders; must avoid
concentrated exposure to hazards; and is limited to simple,
routine, repetitive tasks in a stable environment with
occasional public contact.” (Tr. 29).
fourth step, the ALJ found that the claimant was unable to
perform any past relevant work (Tr. 33). However, at the
fifth step, the ALJ concluded that there were jobs that exist
in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff
can perform, including packer, folder, and assembler. (Tr.
34). Accordingly, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff was not
disabled under the Act. Id.
Standard of Review
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
argues, inter alia, that the ALJ's RFC
evaluation was insufficient to account for her moderate
limitations in concentration, persistence, or pace.
is solely responsible for assessing a claimant's RFC. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1546(c) & 416.946(c). In making
that assessment, the ALJ must consider the functional
limitations resulting from the claimant's medically
determinable impairments. SSR96-8p, available at 1996 WL
374184, at *2. The ALJ must also “include a narrative
discussion describing how the ...