United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
LISA M. GORDON, 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. 15) and
Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 17).
Having carefully considered such motions and reviewed the
pleadings, the court enters the following findings,
conclusions, and Order.
Lisa M. Gordon (“Gordon” or
“Plaintiff”) initially filed her applications for
Disability Insurance Benefits and SSI on July 5, 2011,
alleging a disability onset date of July 1, 2006. At her most
recent hearing, Plaintiff amended the alleged onset date to
September 27, 2013. After Plaintiff's claim was denied
both initially and on reconsideration, she requested and was
granted a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Eduardo
Soto. After reviewing the record and conducting a video
hearing, Judge Soto issued a decision on August 14, 2013,
that was unfavorable to Plaintiff, from which Plaintiff
appealed to the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council vacated
and remanded the case for further consideration on September
11, 2014. A new in-person hearing was held before
Administrative Law Judge Wendell M. Sims (“the
ALJ”) for de novo review of Plaintiff's claims on
March 30, 2015. On May 26, 2015, the ALJ issued his
determination that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act.
On January 14, 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
has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her
alleged onset date (Tr. 22). At the second step, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff has the following combination of
severe impairments: osteoarthritis of the right ankle and
right knee, status post open reduction internal fixation of
the right ankle, missing three fingers on the non-dominant
left hand, missing one toe on the right foot, chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), obesity, carpal tunnel
syndrome, and major depressive and anxiety disorders.
(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. 24). However, in reaching this determination
the ALJ did find that Plaintiff has mild restrictions in
activities of daily living and social functioning, and
moderate difficulties with regard to concentration,
persistence, or pace. (Tr. 25).
then found that Plaintiff has residual functional capacity
(RFC) to perform light work with the following limitations:
except that she is limited to occasional climbing, balancing,
kneeling, crouching, and crawling. Further, she is limited to
frequent but no constant handling and fingering with her
bilateral upper extremities. Finally, she is limited to
simple routine repetitive tasks in a stable environment at a
(Tr 26). Based on these limitations, the ALJ found in the
fourth step that Plaintiff is unable to perform any past
relevant work. (Tr. 37). 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 Poly-Packer Heat-Sealer, Photocopying-Machine
Operator, and Glue Machine Sealer (officially labeled
“sealing-machine operator”). (Tr. 37-38).
Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is not disabled
under the Act.
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