United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff Douglas Allen
Arnold's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 12) and
Defendant Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
Nancy A. Berryhill's (“Commissioner”) Motion
for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 14). Plaintiff seeks judicial
review of an unfavorable administrative decision on his
application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Social Security Income
review and consideration of the written arguments,
administrative record, and applicable authority, for the
reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary
Judgment is DENIED; the Commissioner's Motion for Summary
Judgment is GRANTED; and the Commissioner's decision is
applied for Title II Disability Insurance Benefits and Title
XVI Supplemental Social Security Income on August 14, 2013.
(Tr. 41). He alleged to suffer from disability beginning on
August 1, 2010. Id. Plaintiff's claims for both
DIB and SSI were denied on October 18, 2013. Id.
After a hearing upon reconsideration to ensure the
consideration of total evidence (Tr. 137), his claims were
again denied on April 4, 2014. Id. Following this,
an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found against Plaintiff on
both claims on June 2, 2016. (Id. at 51). The
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request of review on
April 10, 2017. (Id. at 5). Plaintiff now appeals
the Commissioner's decision before this Court.
alleges that the Commissioner's decision is not supported
by substantial evidence and that the correct legal standards
were not applied. (Doc. No. 13, p. 1). Plaintiff claims the
ALJ erred by (1) failing to perform a function by function
analysis of Plaintiff's ability to walk, stand, and sit;
and (2) failing to evaluate Mr. Arnold's need to elevate
his legs. Id. Specifically, Plaintiff asks for a
favorable decision from this Court due to the allegation that
the ALJ failed to make a finding regarding the duration of
which Plaintiff can walk, stand, and sit and the allegation
that the ALJ failed to make a finding regarding
Plaintiff's alleged need to elevate his legs during the
day. Id. at 2. Plaintiff alleges,
The ALJ's failure to perform a function by function
analysis of these relevant, contested functions was very
harmful as Mr. Arnold's alleged limited ability to walk
at one time constitutes an inability to ambulate effectively
and the vocational expert (“VE”) testified that
if he needed to elevate his legs while sitting at waist level
or higher for any sedentary job setting, he would be
Id. Defendant, meanwhile, contends that the ALJ
conducted a thorough analysis in his written decision in
which he considered substantial evidence. (Doc. No. 15, p.
Standard of Review
Court is authorized to review the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security to deny social security
benefits. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Two factors are essential
to the Court's decision in determining whether the
Commissioner made the correct determination. First,
substantial evidence must exist that supports the decision of
the Commissioner. Bird v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.
Admin., 699 F.3d 337, 340 (4th Cir. 2012). Substantial
evidence is more than a mere scintilla of evidence but less
than a preponderance. Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585,
589 (4th Cir. 1982). It is evidence that a reasonable mind
might accept as adequately supporting a conclusion.
Id. In making its determination, the Court will not
reweigh evidence. It is not the role of this Court 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.
the Commissioner must have applied the correct legal
standard. Bird, 699 F.3d at 340. The Commissioner
must use a five-step process for social security claims. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520. The Commissioner asks, in sequence,
whether the claimant: (1) participated in substantially
gainful activity (SGA); (2) suffered from an impairment or
combination of impairments that qualify as medically severe;
(3) suffered from an impairment that met or equaled the
severity of a listed impairment; (4) can return to their past
relevant work while assessing the residual functional
capacity (RFC); and (5) if not, could perform other work in
the national economy. Id. While the claimant bears
the burden of proof for the first four steps, the burden
shifts to the Commissioner for the fifth step. Monroe v.
Colvin, 826 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2016).
end of the third step, the Commissioner makes a determination
of the claimant's RFC. Lewis v. Berryhill, 858
F.3d 858, 861-62 (4th Cir. 2017). A claimant's RFC is
relevant if the claimant does not meet a listed disability.
Id. In the fourth step, the claimant must show they
cannot perform the work of their past jobs to be successful.
Mascio v. Colvin, 780 F.3d 632, 635 (4th Cir. 2015).
If the claimant is successful here, the burden shifts to the
government for the final step to prove that a significant
number of jobs exist in the national economy which are
suitable for the plaintiff. Lewis, 858 F.3d at
861-62. The government typically attempts to meet this burden
through the use of a vocational expert (VE). Id. at
found in favor of Plaintiff with respect to the first four
steps of the five-step decisional process. Plaintiff's
assignments of error arise out of final step of the five-step
decisional process. Here, the ALJ concluded that despite
Plaintiff's severe impairments, jobs exist in the
national economy that Plaintiff could still perform. (Tr.
50-51). In making this decision, the ALJ took into account
the advice of the vocational expert (“VE”), the
RFC, and the claimant's age, education, and work
experience. Id. at 50. Plaintiff argues: (1) the ALJ
failed to engage in a function by function analysis of