United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE
Webster United States Magistrate Judge
Joseph Williams brought this action to obtain review of a
final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security denying his claim for social security
disability benefits. The Court has before it the certified
administrative record and cross-motions for judgment.
filed an application for disability benefits in June of 2012,
alleging a disability onset date of December 2, 2011. (Tr.
159-62.) The application was denied initially and
upon reconsideration. (Id. at 99-115.) Plaintiff had
a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ") who determined that he was not disabled.
(Id. at 32-65.) The Appeals Council denied a request
for review, making the ALJ's determination the
Commissioner's final decision for purposes of review.
(Id. at 1-7.)
STANDARD FOR REVIEW
scope of judicial review of the Commissioner's final
decision is specific and narrow. Smith v. Schweiker,
795 F.2d 343, 345 (4th Cir. 1986). Review is limited to
determining if there is substantial evidence in the record to
support the Commissioner's decision. 42 U.S.C. §
405(g); Hunter v. Sullivan, 993 F.2d 31, 34 (4th Or.
1992); Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th
Cir. 1990). In reviewing for substantial evidence, the Court
does not re-weigh conflicting evidence, make credibility
determinations, or substitute its judgment for that of the
Commissioner. Craig v. Chafer, 76 F.3d 585, 589 (4th
Cir. 1996). The issue, then, is not whether Plaintiff is
disabled but whether the Commissioner's finding that he
is not disabled is supported by substantial evidence and
based on a correct application of the law. Id.
THE ALJ'S DECISION
followed the well-established sequential analysis to
ascertain whether the claimant is disabled, which is set
forth in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. See Albright v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 174 F.3d 473, 475 n.2
(4th Cir. 1999). The ALJ determined at step one that
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since the alleged onset date of December 2, 2011. (Tr. 34.)
The ALJ next found the following severe impairments at step
two: bilateral shoulder rotator cuff repair (right 2009 and
left 2013), sleep apnea, depression, and borderline
intellectual functioning. (Id.) At step three, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments listed in, or medically equal to,
one listed in Appendix 1. (Id.) The ALJ next set
forth Plaintiffs Residual Functional Capacity
("RFC") and determined that he
can lift 20 pounds occasionally; 10 pounds frequently, sit,
stand and walk up to six hours in an eight-hour workday, and
occasionally work overhead with either upper extremity. He
can perform simple, routine, repetitive work (3 to 4 step
operation[s] without a quota requirement); and frequent
exposure to public (not service industry).
(Id. at 36.) At step four, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff was able to perform his past relevant work
(id. at 40) and then found that Plaintiff was not
disabled under the Act (id).
ISSUES AND ANALYSIS
The ALJ's Step Four Analysis Is Well-Supported.
asserts that "the ALJ failed to fulfill his duty, under
Social Security Ruling (SSR) 82-62, to fully question the
claimant and develop the record regarding the physical and
mental demands of his past relevant work." (Docket Entry
18 at 6.) Defendant disagrees. (Docket Entry 20 at 8-16.)
Having reviewed both briefs and the entire record, the Court
agrees with Defendant that this issue lacks merit.
specifically, Plaintiff has the burden through the first four
steps of the sequential evaluation process and at the fourth
step he must establish that he has an impairment which
prevents him from performing his past relevant work. See
Hall v. Harris, 658 F.2d 260, 264 (4th Cir. 1981). The
Social Security Regulations address the proper procedure for
an ALJ to follow at step four. SSR 82-62 provides in
pertinent part that:
In finding that an individual has the capacity to perform a
past relevant job, the determination or decision must contain
among the findings the following specific findings of fact:
1. A finding of fact as to the individual's RFC.
2. A finding of fact as to the physical and mental demands
of the past job/occupation.
3. A finding of fact that the ...