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Carrera v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

January 23, 2018

SERGIO JAMIE CARRERA, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          GRAHAM C. MULLEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER is before the Court upon Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. No. 7) and Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 9). Having carefully considered such motions and reviewed the pleadings, the court enters the following findings, conclusions, and Order.

         FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

         I. Administrative History

         Plaintiff Sergio Jamie Carrera (“Carrera” or “Plaintiff”) initially filed his application for Disability Insurance Benefits on July 12, 2013, alleging a disability onset date of September 15, 2012. After Plaintiff's claim was denied both initially and on reconsideration, he requested and was granted a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Campbell (“the ALJ”). After reviewing the record and conducting a video hearing, the ALJ issued a decision on May 23, 2016, that was unfavorable to Plaintiff, from which Plaintiff appealed to the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council denied review on September 25, 2016, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff timely filed this action, seeking judicial review of the ALJ's decision and the denial of review by the Appeals Council.

         II. Factual Background

         In her decision, the ALJ at the first step determined that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date (Tr. 26). At the second step, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has the following combination of severe impairments: degenerative disc disease status post spinal fusion, obstructive sleep apnea, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). (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. 27).

         The ALJ then found that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform medium work with the following limitations:

[He] can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds or be exposed to unprotected heights. He can frequently climb ramps or stairs. He can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl. He must avoid concentrated exposure to dust, fumes, and pulmonary irritants. He requires a sit-stand option allowing him to shift position on an hourly basis.

         (Tr 27-28). Based on these limitations, the ALJ found in the fourth step that Plaintiff is capable of perform his past relevant work as a lieutenant. (Tr. 31). And, alternatively, at the fifth step the ALJ concluded that there are also other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform, including Assembler and Hand packager. (Tr. 32-33).

         Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is not disabled under the Act.

         III. Standard of Review

         The 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 ...


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