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Oliver v. Berryhill

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

April 18, 2018

FRANKLIN A. OLIVER, 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[1](Doc. No. 7) and Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 8). 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 Franklin A. Oliver (“Oliver” or “Plaintiff”) filed his application for Disability Insurance Benefits on February 4, 2014, alleging a disability onset date of November 26, 2013. After Plaintiff's claim was denied both initially and on reconsideration, he requested and was granted a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Sherman D. Schwartzberg (“the ALJ”). The ALJ issued a decision on October 20, 2015, that Plaintiff was not disabled, from which Plaintiff appealed to the Appeals Council. On September 30, 2016, Plaintiff's request for review was denied, 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 his decision, the ALJ at the first step determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date. (Tr. 23). At the second step, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has the following severe impairment: status post left L4-L5 micro-lumbar discectomy; chronic back pain syndrome; type II diabetes mellitus; and obesity. (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. 24).

         The ALJ then found that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform sedentary work, “which includes standing and walking four hours in an eight-hour workday; sitting six hours in an eight-hour workday; occasional postural limitations; no climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; avoid concentrated exposure to hazards and vibrations; and the claimant can perform simple, unskilled work.” (Id.). Based on these limitations, the ALJ found in the fourth step that Plaintiff is not capable of performing his past relevant work as a truck driver. (Tr. 29). But, at the fifth step, the ALJ concluded that there are other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform. (Tr. 30). Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act. (Id.).

         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. Discussion

         Plaintiff's first assignment of error is that the ALJ failed to adequately translate Dr. Plaut's findings into appropriate limitations in Plaintiff's RFC.

         The RFC “is an assessment of an individual's ability to do sustained work-related physical and mental activities in a work setting on a regular and continuing basis.” S.S.R. 96-8p. The ALJ is solely responsible for determining the RFC of a claimant. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1546(c). In determining RFC, the ALJ must consider the functional limitations ...


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