United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
DENISE B. MOOREHEAD, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff Denise B.
Moorehead's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc.
No. 13) filed on October 31, 2017, and Defendant Acting
Commissioner of Social Security Nancy A. Berryhill's
(“Commissioner”) Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. No. 19) filed on February 9, 2018. Plaintiff, through
counsel, seeks judicial review of an unfavorable
administrative decision on her application for Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”).
reviewed and considered the written arguments, administrative
record, and applicable authority, and for the reasons set
forth below, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for
Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. No. 13) and GRANTS the
Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 19).
filed an application for Title XVI disability benefits on
June 20, 2013, alleging disability. (Tr. 328). After her
application was denied initially and upon reconsideration
(Tr. 202-242), Plaintiff requested a hearing (Tr. 264-66).
After the hearing on March 4, 2016 (Tr. 104- 132), the ALJ
issued an unfavorable decision (Tr. 79-98). Plaintiff's
request for review by the Appeals Council was denied on April
10, 2017. (Tr. 1-6).
determined Plaintiff was not disabled since June 20, 2013.
(Tr. 79, 98). The ALJ found that Plaintiff has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since June 20, 2013 and that she
had the following severe impairments: “degenerative
disk disease, arthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease, gastritis, diabetes, obesity, anxiety and
depression.” (Tr. 81). The ALJ determined that none of
these impairments nor any combination of the impairments meet
or medically equal a per se disabled medical listing under 20
C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1. (Tr. 85). The ALJ then
found that Plaintiff had the Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR § 404.1567(b) except:
[S]he is limited to jobs that will allow her to sit or stand
while working; she is limited to only occasional climbing,
stooping, crouching, crawling, and bending; she is limited to
only occasional work around unprotected heights and dangerous
equipment; she is limited to only occasional overhead
reaching with her right arm; and she is further limited to
jobs performing the simple, routine, repetitive tasks of
(Tr. 88). In response to a hypothetical that factored in the
above limitations, the vocational expert (“VE”)
testified that Plaintiff could perform jobs in the national
economy. (Tr. 97). Thus, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was
not disabled, as defined under the Social Security Act. (Tr.
has exhausted all administrative remedies and now appeals
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff claims that
the ALJ's decision should be reversed because the ALJ
failed to incorporate a limitation in the RFC on her ability
to stay on task and erred in his determination of
STANDARD OF REVIEW
405(g) of Title 42 of the United States Code provides
judicial review of the Social Security Commissioner's
denial of social security benefits. When examining a
disability determination, a reviewing court is required to
uphold the determination when an ALJ has applied correct
legal standards and the ALJ's factual findings are
supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
Westmoreland Coal Co., Inc. v. Cochran, 718 F.3d
319, 322 (4th Cir. 2013); Bird v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.
Admin., 699 F.3d 337, 340 (4th Cir. 2012). A reviewing
court may not re-weigh conflicting evidence or make
credibility determinations because “it is not within
the province of a reviewing court to determine the weight of
the evidence, nor is it the court's function to
substitute its judgment for that of the Secretary if his
decision is supported by substantial evidence.”
Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir.
evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Johnson v. Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650, 653 (4th Cir.
2005) (alteration and internal quotation marks omitted).
“It consists of more than a mere scintilla of evidence
but may be less than a preponderance.” Pearson v.
Colvin, 810 F.3d 204, 207 (4th Cir. 2015) (internal
quotation marks omitted). Courts do not reweigh evidence or
make credibility determinations in evaluating whether a
decision is supported by substantial evidence; “[w]here
conflicting evidence allows reasonable minds to differ,
” courts defer to the ALJ's decision.
Johnson, 434 F.3d at 653.
order to establish entitlement to benefits, a claimant must
provide evidence of a medically determinable impairment that
precludes returning to past relevant work and adjustment to
other work.” Flesher v. Berryhill, 697 F.
App'x 212 (4th Cir. 2017) (citing 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1508, 404.1520(g)). In evaluating a disability claim, the
Commissioner uses a five-step process. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520. Pursuant to this five-step process, the
Commissioner asks, in sequence, whether the claimant: (1)
worked during the alleged period of disability; (2) had a
severe impairment; (3) had an impairment that met or equaled
the severity of a listed impairment; (4) could return to his
past relevant work; and (5) if not, could perform any other
work in the national economy. Id.; see also
Lewis v. Berryhill, 858 F.3d 858, 861 (4th Cir. 2017)
(citing Mascio v. Colvin, 780 F.3d 632, 634 (4th
Cir. 2015)); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4),
416.920(a)(4)). The claimant bears the burden of proof at
steps one through four, but the burden shifts to the
Commissioner at step five. See Lewis, 858 F.3d at
861; Monroe v. Colvin, 826 F.3d 176, 179-80 (4th
the claimant fails to demonstrate she has a disability that
meets or medically equals a listed impairment at step three,
the ALJ must assess the claimant's residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) before proceeding to step four,
which is ‘the most [the claimant] can still do despite
[her physical and mental] limitations [that affect h[er]
ability to work].'” Lewis, 858 F.3d at
861-62 (quoting 20 C.F.R. §§ ...