United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
T. Numbers, II United States Magistrate Judge
Plaintiff Karen Jacobs Young instituted this action on
October 11, 2016, to challenge the denial of her application
for social security income. Young claims that the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Ronald Sweeda
erred in (1) evaluating her allegations of pain, and (2)
weighing the medical opinion evidence. Both Young and
Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, the Acting Commissioner of
Social Security, have filed motions seeking a judgment on the
pleadings in their favor. D.E. 24, 26.
reviewing the parties' arguments, the court has
determined that ALJ Sweeda reached the appropriate decision.
ALJ Sweeda appropriately considered Young's statements of
pain and offered reasons for declining to fully credit her
allegations. Additionally, ALJ Sweeda's evaluation of the
medical opinion evidence is supported by substantial
evidence. Therefore, the court denies Young's motion,
grants Berryhill's motion, and affirms the
9, 2012, Young protectively filed an application for
disability benefits alleging a disability that began on
September 12, 2012. After her claim was denied at the initial
level and upon reconsideration, Young appeared before ALJ
Sweeda for a hearing to determine whether she was entitled to
benefits. ALJ Sweeda determined Young was not entitled to
benefits because she was not disabled. Tr. at 17-29.
Sweeda found that Young had several severe impairments:
asthma, obesity, history of cerebrovascular accident
(“CVA”), fibromyalgia, and depression. Tr. at 19.
ALJ Sweeda found that Young's impairments, either alone
or in combination, did not meet or equal a Listing
impairment. Tr. at 21.
Sweeda then determined that Young had the RFC to perform a
range of light work with additional limitations. Tr. at 22.
She must avoid any exposure to temperature extremes, high
humidity, concentrated pulmonary irritants, or workplace
hazards. Tr. at 22-23. Additionally, Young is capable of
simple, repetitive tasks in a work environment where
fast-paced production is not required. Id.
Sweeda concluded that Young was incapable of performing her
past relevant work as a child support worker. Tr. at 28. But
ALJ Sweeda determined that, considering Young's age,
education, work experience, and RFC, there were other jobs
that existed in significant numbers in the national economy
that Young was capable of performing. Id. These
include: paper finishing machine operator, bagger, and hand
packer/inspector. Tr. at 28-29. Thus, ALJ Sweeda found that
Young was not disabled. Tr. at 29.
unsuccessfully seeking review by the Appeals Council, Young
commenced this action in October 2016. D.E. 6.
Standard for Review of the Acting Commissioner's Final
social security claimant appeals a final decision of the
Commissioner, the district court's review is limited to
determining whether, based on the entire administrative
record, there is substantial evidence to support the
Commissioner's findings. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971).
Substantial evidence is defined as “evidence which a
reasoning mind would accept as sufficient to support a
particular conclusion.” Shively v. Heckler,
739 F.2d 987, 989 (4th Cir. 1984) (quoting Laws v.
Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640, 642 (4th Cir. 1966)). The
court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is
supported by substantial evidence. Smith v. Chater,
99 F.3d 635, 638 (4th Cir. 1996).
Standard for Evaluating Disability
making a disability determination, the ALJ engages in a
five-step evaluation process. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520;
see Johnson v. Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650 (4th Cir.
2005). The ALJ must consider the factors in order. At step
one, if the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful
activity, the claim is denied. At step two, the claim is
denied if the claimant does not have a severe impairment or
combination of impairments significantly limiting him or her
from performing basic work activities. At step three, the
claimant's impairment is compared to those in the Listing
of Impairments. See 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
App. 1. If the impairment is listed in the Listing of
Impairments or if it is equivalent to a listed impairment,
disability is conclusively presumed. However, if the
claimant's impairment does not meet or equal a listed
impairment, the ALJ assesses the claimant's RFC to
determine, at step four, whether he can perform his past work
despite his impairments. If the claimant cannot perform past
relevant work, the analysis moves on to step five:
establishing whether the claimant, based on his age, work
experience, and RFC can perform other substantial gainful
work. The burden of proof is on the claimant for the first
four steps of this inquiry, but shifts to the Commissioner at
the fifth step. Pass v. Chater, 65 F.3d 1200, 1203
(4th Cir. 1995).