United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
HAROLD L. KISER, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
D. WHITNEY CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff Harold L. Kiser's
Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 13), filed May 21,
2018, and Defendant Acting Commissioner of Social Security
Nancy A. Berryhill's (“Commissioner”) Motion
for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 15), filed July 6, 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.
originally filed a Title XVI application for supplemental
security income on December 23, 2009, which was subsequently
denied. (Tr. 34). This previous claim was denied by ALJ
Wendell Sims on December 1, 2011, becoming the final decision
when the Appeals Council denied request for review on October
26, 2012. (Tr. 34). Thereafter, Plaintiff was found eligible
for Medicaid benefits on August 14, 2013, receiving a rating
of “disabled” under Medicaid eligibility rules.
subsequently filed an application for Title II and Title XVI
benefits on December 12, 2012 (Tr. 34). Plaintiff alleges
disability beginning July 21, 2009 (Tr. 34). After his
application was denied initially and upon reconsideration,
Plaintiff requested a hearing (Tr. 34). After a hearing on
September 8, 2014, (Tr. 34), the ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision (Tr. 31). Plaintiff's subsequent request for
review by the Appeals Council was denied. (Tr. 1). Plaintiff
now appeals this decision to this Court.
case at bar, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since July 21, 2009 and met the
insured status requirements through December 31, 2018. (Tr.
37). The ALJ found Plaintiff to have the following severe
impairments: “prostate cancer, urinary tract disorder,
degenerative disc disease, and organic mental disorder (20
CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c))[.]” (Tr. 38). 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. 40). The ALJ then found Plaintiff had the Residual
Functional Capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary
work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(a),
416.967(a), with the following additional limitations:
The claimant requires a cane for ambulation. The claimant
occasionally can climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop,
kneel, crouch, and crawl. The claimant cannot climb ladders,
ropes, and scaffolds. The claimant must avoid concentrated
exposure to unprotected heights, moving mechanical parts,
extreme heat, extreme cold, humidity, dust, odors, fumes, and
pulmonary irritants. The claimant cannot operate motorized
equipment as part of his job. The claimant can perform work
involving simple, routine, and repetitive tasks and making
simple, work-related decisions. The claimant can tolerate
only simple changes in the work setting. The claimant can
have occasional interaction with co-workers, and no
interaction with the public.
(Tr. 42). 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 his past relevant work as a document
preparer/scanner, final assembler, and addresser, in addition
to others' jobs that exist in significant numbers in the
national economy. (Tr. 50). As a result, the ALJ concluded
Plaintiff was not disabled, as defined under the Social
Security Act, from July 21, 2009, through the date of the
ALJ's decision. (Tr. 50). Plaintiff has exhausted all
administrative remedies and now appeals pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
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 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. §§ ...