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McDonald v. Berryhill

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

December 14, 2017

KEITH MCDONALD, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          Joe L Webster United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Keith McDonald brought this action to obtain review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his claims for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI"). The Court has before it the certified administrative record[1] and cross-motions for judgment.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI in September of 2012 alleging a disability onset date of February 18, 2012. (Tr. 239-426, 247-51.) The applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. (Id. at 132-33, 172-73.) Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") which was held on August 25, 2015. (Id. at 31- 99, 201-02.) After a hearing, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled. (Id. at 11-30.) The Appeals Council denied a request for review, making the ALJ's determination the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of review. (Id. at 1-3.)

         II. STANDARD FOR REVIEW

         The scope of judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision is specific and narrow. Smith v. Schweiker, 795 F.2d 343, 345 (4th Cir. 1986). Review is limited to determining if there is substantial evidence in the record to support the Commissioner's decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Hunter v. Sullivan, 993 F.2d 31, 34 (4th Cir. 1992); Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). In reviewing for substantial evidence, the Court does not re-weigh conflicting evidence, make credibility determinations, or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589 (4th Cir. 1996). The issue before the Court, therefore, is not whether Plaintiff is disabled but whether the Commissioner's finding that he is not disabled is supported by substantial evidence and was reached based upon a correct application of the relevant law. Id.

         III. THE ALJ'S DECISION

         The ALJ followed the sequential analysis, which is set forth in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 and 416.920, to ascertain whether the claimant is disabled. See Albright v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin,, 174 F.3d 473, 475 n.2 (4th Cir. 1999).[2] The ALJ determined at step one that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the February 18, 2012 alleged onset date. (Tr. 16.) The ALJ next found the following severe impairments at step two: osteoarthrosis and allied disorders, and fractures of the upper limb. (Id.) At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments listed in, or medically equal to, one listed in Appendix 1. (Id. at 18.)

         The ALJ next set forth Plaintiffs Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC") and determined that he could perform sedentary work with the following limitations:

occasionally lift/carry 10 pounds; frequently lift/carry up to 10 pounds; sit for six hours in an eight-hour workday; stand and walk up to two hours in an eight-hour workday; and push/pull as much as he can lift/carry. He can frequently operate hand controls, reach overhead, handle, finger, and feel with the left upper extremity. He can occasionally climb ramps and stairs; never climb ladders and scaffolds; and occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. He can never have exposure to unprotected heights, moving mechanical parts, or extreme cold. He is further limited to performing simple, routine tasks.

(Id. at 18-19.) At step four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work. (Id. at 21.) Last, at step five, the ALJ determined that there were jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. (Id. at 22-23.) Consequently, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled. (Id. at 23.)

         IV. ISSUES AND ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff raises two issues in his brief. First, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred by failing to include limitations in the RFC regarding Plaintiffs ability to rotate, extend and flex his neck. (Docket Entry 13 at 4-7.) Second, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred by summarily assigning partial weight to the medical opinion of Plaintiff s treating physician, Dr. Paul G. Singh. (Id. at 7-12.) For the following reasons, the Court disagrees.

         A. Substantial evidence supports the ALJ's ...


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