United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division
J. CONRAD, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MATTER comes before the Court on the parties'
cross Motions for Summary Judgment, (Doc. Nos. 12, 15); and
the parties' briefs and exhibits in support. The motions
are ripe for adjudication.
Triplett (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of
Nancy A. Berryhill's (“Defendant” or
“Commissioner”) denial of her social security
claim. Plaintiff filed an application for Disability
Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act
(“SSA”) on June 7, 2013, alleging a disability
onset date of January 1, 2013. (Doc. Nos. 11 to 11-1:
Administrative Record (“Tr.”) 19). Her
application was denied first on October 10, 2013, (Tr. 103),
and upon reconsideration on January 13, 2014. (Tr. 109).
Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing on January 31,
2014, (Tr.109), and an administrative hearing was held by an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) on November 12,
2015. (Tr. 37, 119).
this hearing, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled
under the SSA. (Tr. 16-36). Plaintiff requested a review of
the ALJ's decision, but the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for a review. (Tr. 1). After having
exhausted her administrative remedies, Plaintiff now seeks
judicial review of Defendant's denial of her social
security claim in this Court.
question before the ALJ was whether Plaintiff was disabled
under Sections 216(i) and 223(d) of the SSA. (Tr. 19). To
establish entitlement to benefits, Plaintiff has the burden
of proving that she was disabled within the meaning of the
Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5 (1987).
Plaintiff alleges that her disability began on January 1,
2013 due to a combination of physical and mental
reviewing Plaintiff's record and conducting a hearing,
the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not suffer from a disability
as defined in the SSA. (Tr. 31-32). In reaching his
conclusion, the ALJ used the five-step sequential evaluation
process established by the Social Security Administration for
determining if a person is disabled. The Fourth Circuit has
described the five-steps as follows:
[The ALJ] asks whether the claimant: (1) worked during the
purported period of disability; (2) has an impairment that is
appropriately severe and meets the duration requirement; (3)
has an impairment that meets or equals the requirements of a
listed impairment and meets the duration requirement; (4) can
return to her past relevant work; and (5) if not, can perform
any other work in the national economy.
Radford v. Colvin, 734 F.3d 288, 290-91 (4th Cir.
2013) (paraphrasing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4),
416.920(a)(4)). The claimant has the burden of production and
proof in the first four steps. Pearson v. Colvin,
810 F.3d 204, 207 (4th Cir. 2015). However, at the fifth
step, the Commissioner must prove that the claimant is able
to perform other work in the national economy despite her
limitations. See id.; see also 20
C.F.R. § 416.960(c)(2) (explaining that the Commissioner
has the burden to prove at the fifth step “that other
work exists in significant numbers in the national economy
that [the claimant] can do”). In this case, the ALJ
determined at the fifth step that Plaintiff was not disabled.
reaching his decision, the ALJ first concluded at steps one
through three that Plaintiff was not employed, that she
suffered from severe physical and mental impairments,
that her impairments did not meet or equal any of the
impairments listed in the Administration's regulations.
(Tr. 21-27). Therefore, the ALJ examined the evidence of
Plaintiff's impairments and made a finding as to
Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”). The ALJ found that Plaintiff has
“the [RFC] to perform a full range of light work . . .
except she can frequently climb, balance, stoop, crouch,
kneel and/or crawl. She must avoid concentrated exposure to
dust, fumes, and gases.” (Tr. 27). Having established
Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff could
not perform the work in which she had previously been
employed. (Tr. 30). Therefore, the ALJ proceeded to the fifth
and final step of the process: determining whether, given the
limitations embodied in her RFC, Plaintiff could perform any
work that existed in significant numbers in the national
economy. (Tr. 31-32). To make that determination, the ALJ
relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert
(“VE”). The VE testified that Plaintiff could
perform three representative occupations that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy: “marker,
” “router, ” and “sales
attendant.” (Tr. 31). All of these jobs involve
“light exertion” according to the
The ALJ accepted the VE's testimony and concluded that
Plaintiff's impairments did not prevent her from working;
consequently, Plaintiff's application for Title II
benefits was denied. (Tr. 31-32).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court must decide whether substantial evidence supports the
final decision of the Commissioner and whether the
Commissioner fulfilled her lawful duty in her determination
that Plaintiff was not disabled ...