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Post v. Berryhill

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

April 9, 2018

EDWARD C. POST, 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 Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 13) and Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 17). Having carefully considered the motions and reviewed the record, the court enters the following findings, conclusions, and Order.

         FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

         I. Administrative History

         Plaintiff Edward C. Post (“Post” or “Plaintiff”) filed his application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) on April 26, 2011, alleging a disability since October 1, 1997. The onset date was subsequently amended to April 26, 2011. After Plaintiff's claim was denied, he requested and was granted a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Richard H. Harper (“Judge Harper”). Judge Harper issued a decision denying the claim on January 17, 2013. On April 22, 2014, the Appeals Council remanded the case for further proceedings.

         On remand, a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Susan Poulos (“the ALJ”) on April 8, 2015. On June 24, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision denying the claim. On November 7, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, 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.

         II. Factual Background

         In her decision, the ALJ at the first step determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date. (Tr. 41). At the second step, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: status post mechanical accident in 2002 resulting in amputation of three fingers on the left hand and part of the left thumb, and mental impairment variously diagnosed as bipolar disorder, mood disorder NOS, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and personality disorder NOS. (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. 42).

         After a consideration of the entire record, the ALJ then found that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels with the following nonexertional limitations:

no handling and fingering with the left hand; simple, routine, repetitive tasks; one to two step instructions; simple decision making; few if any changes; occasional interaction with the general public and coworkers; and the left upper extremity used only to assist in lifting.

(Tr. 43). The ALJ found in the fourth step that Plaintiff does not have any past relevant work. (Tr. 49). Finally, at the fifth step, the ALJ concluded based on Plaintiff's limitations that there are other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. (Id.). Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. (Tr. 50).

         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. Schweiker, 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 weighed against the Commissioner's decision, the Commissioner's decision would have to be affirmed if supported by substantial evidence. Hays, 907 F.2d at 1456.

         IV. ...


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