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McIntyre v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division

January 30, 2018

Reginald Lee Mclntyre, Plaintiff,
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security,[1] Defendant.


          Robert T. Numbers, II United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Richard Lee Mclntyre instituted this action on December 5, 2016, to challenge the denial of his application for social security income. Mclntyre claims that the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Peggy McFadden-Elmore erred in finding that he had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a reduced range of sedentary work. Both Mclntyre 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. 16, 18.

         After reviewing the parties' arguments, the court has determined that ALJ McFadden-Elmore reached the appropriate decision. The additional limitations Mclntyre claims are not well-supported by the record. Thus, the undersigned magistrate judge recommends that the court deny Mclntyre's motion, grant Berryhill's motion, and affirm the Commissioner's decision.[2]

         I. Background

         On July 19, 2013, Mclntyre filed an application for disability benefits alleging a disability that began on December 15, 2012. After his claim was denied at the initial level and upon reconsideration, Mclntyre appeared before ALJ McFadden-Elmore for a hearing to determine whether he was entitled to benefits. ALJ McFadden-Elmore determined Mclntyre was not entitled to benefits because he was not disabled. Tr. at 10-22.

         ALJ McFadden-Elmore found that Mclntyre had several severe impairments: status-post left patellar tendon rupture and repair, chronic left lower extremity edema, and history of deep vein thrombosis ("DVT"). Tr. at 12. ALJ McFadden-Elmore found that Mclntyre's impairments, either alone or in combination, did not meet or equal a Listing impairment. Tr. at 13.

         ALJ McFadden-Elmore then determined that Mclntyre had the RFC to perform a range of sedentary work with additional limitations. Tr. at 14-15. He can occasionally push and/or pull with his left lower extremity. Tr. at 15. He cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. Id. He can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl and can occasionally climb ramps and stairs. Id. Finally, Mclntyre must avoid concentrated exposure to hazards. Id.

         ALJ McFadden-Elmore concluded that Mclntyre was incapable of performing his past relevant work as a route salesman or district manager. Tr. at 20. But ALJ McFadden-Elmore determined that, considering Mclntyre's age, education, work experience, and RFC, there were other jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that he was capable of performing. Tr. at 20-21. These include: information clerk and receptionist. Tr. at 21. ALJ McFadden-Elmore then found that although he was not able to perform a full range of sedentary work, Mclntyre's age, education, and transferability of work skills made a finding of "not disabled" appropriate under Medical Vocational Rules 201.22 and 201.15. Id. Thus, ALJ McFadden-Elmore found that Mclntyre was not disabled. Tr. at 22.

         After unsuccessfully seeking review by the Appeals Council, Mclntyre commenced this action in December 2016. D.E. 1.

         II. Analysis

         A. Standard for Review of the Acting Commissioner's Final Decision

         When a 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. Chafer, 99 F.3d 635, 638 (4th Cir. 1996).

         B. Standard for Evaluating Disability

         In 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).

         C. ...

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