United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
ALICIA Y. SMITH Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
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. 15).
Having carefully considered such motions and reviewed the
pleadings, the court enters the following findings,
conclusions, and Order.
Alicia Y. Smith (“Smith” or
“Plaintiff”) filed her application for Disability
Insurance Benefits in August 2011, alleging a disability
onset date of August 1, 2010. After Plaintiff's claim was
denied both initially and on reconsideration, she requested
and was granted a hearing before Administrative Law Judge
Wendell M. Sims (“the ALJ”). The ALJ issued a
decision on March 22, 2013, that Plaintiff was not disabled,
from which Plaintiff appealed to the Appeals Council. The
Appeals Council remanded the case for further consideration
on April 18, 2014. A second hearing was held before the ALJ
on November 19, 2014. At this hearing, Plaintiff amended her
onset date to February 28, 2013, making the relevant period
of disability February 28, 2013, through the date last
insured, December 31, 2013. On January 28, 2015, the ALJ
issued his determination that Plaintiff was not disabled
under the Act. On April 1, 2016, Plaintiff's request for
review was denied, making the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
Plaintiff timely filed this action, seeking judicial review
of the ALJ's decision.
decision, the ALJ at the first step determined that Plaintiff
had not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the
period from her alleged onset date through her date last
insured. (Tr. 34). At the second step, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff has the following severe impairment: ulcerative
colitis. (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. 35).
then found that Plaintiff has the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform medium work “except that she
is limited to frequent climbing, balancing, stooping and
crouching.” (Id.). Based on these limitations,
the ALJ found in the fourth step that Plaintiff is is capable
of performing her past relevant work as a stock clerk. (Tr.
40). Further, at the fifth step, the ALJ concluded that there
are other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the
national economy that Plaintiff can perform as well. (Tr.
40-41). Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not
disabled under the Act. (Tr. 42).
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. Schweiker, 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
first assignment of error is that the ALJ failed to give
proper weight to the opinion of her treating physician, Dr.
treating physician is a physician who has observed the
plaintiff's condition over a prolonged period of time.
Mitchell v. Schweiker, 699 F.2d 185, 187
(4th Cir. 1983). Under Social Security
regulations, an ALJ “is required to give
‘controlling weight' to opinions proffered by a
claimant's treating physicians so long as the opinion is
‘well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and
laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent with
the other substantial evidence in [the claimant's] case
record.” Lewis v. Berryhill, 858 F.3d 858, 867
(4th Cir. 2017) (quoting 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2))
(alterations in original). “The regulation's
treating physician rule accords the greatest
weight-controlling weight-to the opinions of treating
sources, because those ‘sources are likely to be the
medical professionals most able to provide a detailed,
longitudinal picture of your medical impairment(s) and may
bring a unique perspective ...