United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED
STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
PATRICK AULD, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Thomas Edward Byers, brought this action pursuant to the
Social Security Act (the “Act”) to obtain
judicial review of a final decision of Defendant, the Acting
Commissioner of Social Security, denying Plaintiff's
claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”)
and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). (Docket
Entry 2.) Defendant has filed the certified administrative
record (Docket Entry 10 (cited herein as “Tr.
___”)), and both parties have moved for judgment
(Docket Entries 12, 15; see also Docket Entry 13
(Plaintiff's Memorandum), Docket Entry 16
(Defendant's Memorandum)). For the reasons that follow,
the Court should enter judgment for Defendant.
applied for DIB and SSI, alleging an onset date of January
15, 2009. (Tr. 145-57.) Upon denial of those applications
initially (Tr. 42-59, 80-89) and on reconsideration (Tr.
60-79, 93-101), Plaintiff requested a hearing de novo before
an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) (Tr. 102-03).
Plaintiff, his attorney, and a vocational expert
(“VE”) attended the hearing. (Tr. 26-41.) The ALJ
subsequently ruled that Plaintiff did not qualify as disabled
under the Act. (Tr. 11-22.) The Appeals Council thereafter
denied Plaintiff's request for review (Tr. 1-10,
199-202), making the ALJ's ruling the Commissioner's
final decision for purposes of judicial review.
rendering that disability determination, the ALJ made the
following findings later adopted by the Commissioner:
1. [Plaintiff] met the disability insured status requirements
of the Act on January 15, 2009, the original alleged date of
disability onset, but continued to meet them only through
December 31, 2013.
2. [Plaintiff] has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the original alleged date of disability onset.
3. The medical evidence establishes that [Plaintiff] has
“severe” lumbar dysfunction and bilateral foot
dysfunction, but that he does not have an impairment or
combination of impairments listed in, or medically equal to
one listed in, Appendix 1, Subpart P, Regulations No. 4.
Additionally, . . . [Plaintiff] has not met his burden of
establishing that he has any other “severe”
4. . . . [T]he testimony regarding the severity of
[Plaintiff's] impairments and resulting functional
limitations was not persuasive.
5. [Plaintiff] retains the residual functional capacity to
perform “medium” work subject to the additional
limitations discussed in the body of this decision.
6. [Plaintiff] is unable to perform his past relevant work.
7. . . . [Plaintiff] has a “limited” education,
but is functionally illiterate.
. . .
9. Although [Plaintiff] is unable to perform the full range
of “medium” work, he is capable of making the
adjustment to work that exists in significant numbers in the
national economy. . . . A finding of not
“disabled” is therefore reached within the
framework of [Medical-Vocational Rules 203.19 and 203.12].
10. . . . [Plaintiff] does not meet the provisions of . . .
the “worn[-]out worker” rule.
11. [Plaintiff] was not under a disability, as defined in the
 Act, at any time through the date of this decision . . . .
law “authorizes judicial review of the Social Security
Commissioner's denial of social security benefits.”
Hines v. Barnhart, 453 F.3d 559, 561 (4th Cir.
2006). However, “the scope of [the Court's] review
of [such a] decision . . . is extremely limited.”
Frady v. Harris, 646 F.2d 143, 144 (4th Cir. 1981).
Plaintiff has not established entitlement to relief under the
extremely limited review standard.
Standard of Review
are not to try [a Social Security] case de novo.”
Oppenheim v. Finch, 495 F.2d 396, 397 (4th Cir.
1974). Instead, the Court “must uphold the factual
findings of the ALJ if they are supported by substantial
evidence and were reached through application of the correct
legal standard.” Hines, 453 F.3d at 561
(internal brackets and quotation marks omitted).
“Substantial evidence means ‘such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.'” Hunter v.
Sullivan, 993 F.2d 31, 34 (4th Cir. 1992) (quoting
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971)).
“It consists of more than a mere scintilla of evidence
but may be somewhat less than a preponderance.”
Mastro v. Apfel, 270 F.3d 171, 176 (4th Cir. 2001)
(internal citations and quotation marks omitted). “If
there is evidence to justify a refusal to direct a verdict
were the case before a jury, then there is substantial
evidence.” Hunter, 993 F.2d at 34 (internal
quotation marks omitted).
reviewing for substantial evidence, the [C]ourt should not
undertake to re-weigh conflicting evidence, make credibility
determinations, or substitute its judgment for that of the
[ALJ, as adopted by the Commissioner].”
Mastro, 270 F.3d at 176 (internal brackets and
quotation marks omitted). “Where conflicting evidence
allows reasonable minds to differ as to whether a claimant is
disabled, the responsibility for that decision falls on the
[Commissioner] (or the ALJ).” Id. at 179
(internal quotation marks omitted). “The issue before
[the Court], therefore, is not whether [the claimant] is
disabled, but whether the ALJ's finding that [the
claimant] is not disabled is supported by substantial
evidence and was reached based upon a correct application of
the relevant law.” Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d
585, 589 (4th Cir. 1996).
confronting that issue, the Court must take note that
“[a] claimant for disability benefits bears the burden
of proving a disability, ” Hall v. Harris, 658
F.2d 260, 264 (4th Cir. 1981), and that, in this context,
“disability” means the “‘inability 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
12 months, '” id. (quoting 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(A)). “To regularize the adjudicative
process, the Social Security Administration has . . .
detailed regulations incorporating longstanding
medical-vocational evaluation policies that take into account
a claimant's age, education, and work experience in