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Thomas v. Berryhill

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

June 14, 2018

MICHAEL J. THOMAS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          L. Patrick Auld, United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff, Michael J. Thomas, brought this action pursuant to the Social Security Act (the “Act”) to obtain judicial review of a final decision of Defendant, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security, denying Plaintiff's claim for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). (Docket Entry 2.) Defendant has filed the certified administrative record (Docket Entry 9 (cited herein as “Tr. ___ ”)), and both parties have moved for judgment (Docket Entries 11, 12; see also Docket Entry 11-1 (Plaintiff's Memorandum); Docket Entry 13 (Defendant's Memorandum)). For the reasons that follow, the Court should enter judgment for Defendant.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff applied for SSI. (Tr. 150-53.)[1] Upon denial of that application initially (Tr. 65-74, 87-89) and on reconsideration (Tr. 75-84, 93-97), Plaintiff requested a hearing de novo before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) (Tr. 98-100). Plaintiff, his attorney, and a vocational expert (“VE”) attended the hearing. (Tr. 32-64.) The ALJ subsequently ruled that Plaintiff did not qualify as disabled under the Act. (Tr. 16-27.) The Appeals Council thereafter denied Plaintiff's request for review (Tr. 1-4, 14-15), thereby making the ALJ's ruling the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of judicial review.

         In rendering that disability determination, the ALJ made the following findings later adopted by the Commissioner:

1. [Plaintiff] has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 28, 2013, the application date.
. . .
2. [Plaintiff] has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); and bilateral elbow arthritis.
. . .
3. [Plaintiff] does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
. . .
4. . . . [Plaintiff] has the residual functional capacity to perform less than the full range of light work . . . . [Plaintiff] can occasionally stoop and climb ramps and stairs. He cannot climb ropes, ladders, or scaffolds. He can have no more than occasional exposure to fumes, dusts, gases, poor ventilation, or extremes of heat, cold, and humidity. He cannot drive an automobile for the completion of job tasks. He can have occasional exposure to hazards. He can perform frequent handling and fingering with occasional reaching overhead.
. . .
5. [Plaintiff] has no past relevant work. . . .
9. Considering [Plaintiff's] age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant No. in the national economy that [Plaintiff] can perform.
. . .
10. [Plaintiff] has not been under a disability, as defined in the [Act], since October 28, 2013, the date the ...

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