United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM & RECOMMENDATION
T. Numbers, II United States Magistrate Judge
Alphonso Scott, Jr., instituted this action on September 12,
2016, to challenge the denial of his application for social
security income. Scott claims that Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ") Nicole S. Forbes-Schmitt erred in (1)
failing to accord proper weight to a previous disability
finding, (2) finding that Scott had the residual functional
capacity ("RFC") to perform a reduced range of
sedentary work, and (3) failing to address the impact of his
obesity on his functioning. Both Scott 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. 17, 21.
reviewing the parties' arguments, the court has
determined that ALJ Forbes-Schmitt reached the appropriate
decision. Substantial evidence supports her conclusion that
the previous disability finding was entitled to little
weight. The ALJ's determination that Scott has an RFC
that allows him to perform a reduced range of sedentary work
is also supported by substantial evidence. Finally, the
ALJ's decision sufficiently addressed the impact of
Scott's obesity on his ability to perform work-related
activities. Therefore, the undersigned magistrate judge
recommends that the court deny Scott's motion, grant
Berryhill's motion, and affirm the Commissioner's
October 2008, an ALJ found that Scott was disabled and
awarded him benefits. Tr. at 17. But Scott lost his benefits
due to incarceration in 2011. Id.
September 2014, Scott protectively filed an application for
supplemental security income alleging that he became disabled
on January 2, 2005. After his claim was denied at the initial
level and upon reconsideration, Scott appeared before ALJ
Forbes-Schmitt for a hearing to determine whether he was
entitled to benefits. ALJ Forbes-Schmitt determined Scott was
not entitled to benefits because he was not disabled. Tr.
Forbes-Schmitt found that Scott had the following severe
impairments: insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus with
peripheral neuropathy, Charcot joint with tendonitis on the
left foot, chronic kidney disease, hypertension, morbid
obesity, and borderline intellectual functioning. Tr.
at 19. ALJ Forbes-Schmitt found that Scott's
impairments, either alone or in combination, did not meet or
equal a Listing impairment. Tr. at 20. ALJ
Forbes-Schmitt then determined that Scott had the RFC to
perform a range of sedentary work with additional
limitations. Tr. at 22. He cannot use the lower left
extremity for foot controls and he must avoid hazards.
Id. Scott is limited to performing simple, routine,
repetitive tasks. Id.
Forbes-Schmitt concluded that Scott had no past relevant
work. Tr. at 27. However, considering his age,
education, work experience, and RFC, ALJ Forbes-Schmitt found
that there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in
the national economy that Scott was capable of performing.
Id. These include bench assembler, addressing clerk,
and weight tester. Id. Thus, ALJ Forbes-Schmitt
found that Scott was not disabled. Tr. at 28.
unsuccessfully seeking review by the Appeals Council, Scott
commenced this action on September 12, 2016. D.E. 5.
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
the determination of 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)). If the
Commissioner's decision is supported by such evidence, it
must be affirmed. 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 analysis requires the ALJ to consider the
following enumerated factors sequentially. At step one, if
the claimant is currently 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).
alleges that he has learning disabilities and physical
impairments because he suffered from spinal meningitis as a
child. Approximately one month before he filed his
application, Scott received treatment at the Emergency
Department of New Hanover Regional Medical Center for kidney
disease, bilateral leg edema, diabetes, hypertension, and an
upper respiratory infection. Tr. at 458-69. The following
month, Dr. Aymen Gebrail conducted a consultative
examination. Tr. at 246-51. He assessed diabetes with
peripheral neuropathy, kidney disease, hypertension, and
Reuben Silver conducted a psychological consultative
examination in October 2014. Tr. at 251-53. He noted anxiety
and low intellectual functioning. He concluded it may be
difficult for Scott to find employment ...