United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division
D. WHITNEY, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff Bonnie Moore
Culbertson's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 10),
filed December 15, 2017, and Defendant Acting Commissioner of
Social Security Nancy A. Berryhill's
(“Commissioner”) Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. No. 12), filed February 13, 2018. Plaintiff, through
counsel, seeks judicial review of an unfavorable
administrative decision on her application for Supplemental
Social Security Income (“SSI”) and Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”).
reviewed and considered the written arguments, administrative
record, and applicable authority, and for the reasons set
forth below, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is
DENIED; the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment is
GRANTED; and the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.
filed an application for Title II benefits on September 16,
2013 (Tr. 229) and Title XVI benefits on September 24, 2013
(Tr. 236). Plaintiff alleges disability beginning June 18,
2018. (Tr. 79). After her application was denied initially
and upon reconsideration (Tr. 161, 166, 170), Plaintiff
request a hearing (Tr. 175). After a hearing on June 15, 2016
(Tr. 39, 193, 219), the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision
(Tr. 18). Plaintiff's subsequent request for review by
the Appeals Council was denied. (Tr. 1).
found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since June 18, 2008 and met the insured status
requirements through September 30, 2015. (Tr. 23). The ALJ
found Plaintiff to have the following severe impairments:
“status-post June 2008 cerebrovascular accident
(stroke); hypertension; neuropathy; anxiety; and
depression[.]” (Tr. 24). The ALJ determined Plaintiff
did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in 20
CFR Part 404, Subpart B, App. 1. (Tr. 25). The ALJ then found
Plaintiff had the Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b), 416.967(b):
[E]xcept she can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, and
never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; she can
occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; and
she can have only occasional exposure to workplace hazards
such as unprotected heights and dangerous machinery.
Mentally, the claimant is limited to simple, routine,
repetitive tasks, with no fast-paced production-rate work.
She requires a work environment with few if any, workplace
changes, and occasional interaction with the general public.
26). In response to a hypothetical that factored in
Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the
vocational expert (“VE”) testified that Plaintiff
could perform her past relevant work as a housekeeper and
could perform others jobs that exist in significant numbers
in the national economy. (Tr. 31-32). As a result, the ALJ
concluded Plaintiff was not disabled, as defined under the
Social Security Act, from June 18, 2008 through the date of
the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 32).
has exhausted all administrative remedies and now appeals
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff argues that
the ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial
evidence because the ALJ found Plaintiff capable of
performing light work. (Doc. No. 11 at 4).
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). We 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,
” we 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
Fed.Appx. 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. §§ ...