United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
TAMALA H. PACK, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED
STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
PATRICK AULD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Tamala H. Pack, 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 Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”)
and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). (Docket
Entry 2.) Defendant has filed the certified administrative
record (Docket Entry 8 (cited herein as “Tr. ”)),
and both parties have moved for judgment (Docket Entries 10,
13; see also Docket Entry 11 (Plaintiff's Brief); Docket
Entry 14 (Defendant's Memorandum)). For the reasons that
follow, the Court should enter judgment for Defendant.
applied for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 335-43.) Upon denial of those
applications initially (Tr. 177-206, 238-45) and on
reconsideration (Tr. 207-37, 249-66), Plaintiff requested a
hearing de novo before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) (Tr. 267-68). Plaintiff, her attorney,
and a vocational expert (“VE”) attended the
hearing. (Tr. 54-82.) The ALJ subsequently ruled that
Plaintiff did not qualify as disabled under the Act. (Tr.
34-48.) The Appeals Council thereafter denied Plaintiff's
request for review (Tr. 16-22, 32-33, 332-34), thereby making
the ALJ's ruling the Commissioner's final decision
for purposes of judicial review.
rendering that disability determination, the ALJ made the
following findings later adopted by the Commissioner:
1. [Plaintiff] meets the insured status requirements of the
 Act through December 31, 2016.
2. [Plaintiff] has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since December 1, 2012, the alleged onset date.
3. [Plaintiff] has the following severe impairments: left
knee degenerative joint disease, fibromyalgia, bilateral
carpal tunnel syndrome with trigger finger, lumbar
degenerative disc disease, and obesity.
4. [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,
5. . . . [Plaintiff] has the residual functional capacity to
perform light work . . . except she could stand or walk for
four hours in an eight-hour day and sit for six hours in an
eight-hour day. She could perform occasional climbing,
stooping, kneeling, crouching, balancing, and crawling.
[Plaintiff] could frequently finger bilaterally. She would
have to avoid concentrated exposure to workplace hazards.
6. [Plaintiff] is unable to perform any past relevant work.
10. Considering [Plaintiff's] age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant No. in the national economy that
[she] can perform.
11. [Plaintiff] has not been under a disability, as defined
in the  Act, from December 1, 2012, through the date of
(Tr. 39-48 (bold font and internal parenthetical citations
law “authorizes judicial review of the Social Security
Commissioner's denial of social security benefits.”
Hines v. Barnhart, 453 F.3d 559, 561 (4th Cir.
2006). However, “the scope of [the Court's] review
of [such a] decision . . . is extremely limited.”
Frady v. Harris, 646 F.2d 143, 144 (4th Cir. 1981).
Plaintiff has not established entitlement to relief under the
extremely limited review standard.
Standard of Review
are not to try [a Social Security] case de novo.”
Oppenheim v. Finch, 495 F.2d 396, 397 (4th Cir.
1974). Instead, the Court “must uphold the factual
findings of the ALJ if they are supported by substantial
evidence and were reached through application of the correct
legal standard.” Hines, 453 F.3d at 561
(internal brackets and quotation marks omitted).
“Substantial evidence means ‘such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.'” Hunter v.
Sullivan, 993 F.2d 31, 34 (4th Cir. 1992) (quoting
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)).
“It consists of more than a mere scintilla of evidence
but may be somewhat less than a preponderance.”
Mastro v. Apfel, 270 F.3d 171, 176 (4th Cir. 2001)
(brackets and internal quotation marks omitted). “If
there is evidence to justify a refusal to direct a verdict
were the case before a jury, then there is substantial
evidence.” Hunter, 993 F.2d at 34 (internal
quotation marks omitted).
reviewing for substantial evidence, the [C]ourt should not
undertake to re-weigh conflicting evidence, make credibility
determinations, or substitute its judgment for that of the
[ALJ, as adopted by the Commissioner].”
Mastro, 270 F.3d at 176 (internal brackets and
quotation marks omitted). “Where conflicting evidence
allows reasonable minds to differ as to whether a claimant is
disabled, the responsibility for that decision falls on the
[Commissioner] (or the ALJ).” Id. at 179
(internal quotation marks omitted). “The issue before
[the Court], therefore, is not whether [the claimant] is
disabled, but whether the ALJ's finding that [the
claimant] is not disabled is supported by substantial
evidence and was reached based upon a correct application of
the relevant law.” Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d
585, 589 (4th Cir. 1996).
confronting that issue, the Court must take note that
“[a] claimant for disability benefits bears the burden
of proving a disability, ” Hall v. Harris, 658
F.2d 260, 264 (4th Cir. 1981), and that, in this context,
“disability” means the “‘inability to
engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any
medically determinable physical or mental impairment which
can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can
be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
12 months, '” Id. (quoting 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(A)). “To regularize the adjudicative
process, the Social Security Administration has . . .
detailed regulations incorporating longstanding
medical-vocational evaluation policies that take into account
a claimant's age, education, ...