United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
J. CONRAD, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court on the parties' cross Motions for
Summary Judgment, (Doc. Nos. 11, 15), and the parties'
briefs and exhibits in support. The motions are ripe for
Fincher (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of
Nancy A. Berryhill's (“Defendant” or
“Commissioner”) denial of his social security
claim. Plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental
Security Income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act
(“SSA”) on April 23, 2013, alleging a disability
onset date of April 23, 2013. (Doc. Nos. 10 to 10-1:
Administrative Record (“Tr.”) 269, 273). His
application was denied first on November 22, 2013 and upon
reconsideration on February 10, 2014. (Tr. 117- 52).
Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing on April 1,
2014, and an administrative hearing was held by an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) on May 19, 2016.
this hearing, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled
under the SSA. (Tr. 20-34). Plaintiff requested a review of
the ALJ's decision, but the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for a review. (Tr. 1-6). After having
exhausted his administrative remedies, Plaintiff now seeks
judicial review of Defendant's denial of his social
security claim in this Court.
question before the ALJ was whether Plaintiff was disabled
under Section 1614(a)(3)(A) of the SSA. (Tr. 20). To
establish entitlement to benefits, Plaintiff has the burden
of proving that he was disabled within the meaning of the
Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5 (1987).
Plaintiff alleges that his disability began on April 23, 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. 29-30). In reaching her
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 [his] 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 his
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 her decision, the ALJ first concluded at steps one
through three that Plaintiff was not employed, that he
suffered from severe physical and mental impairments, and
that his impairments did not meet or equal any of the
impairments listed in the Administration's regulations.
(Tr. 22-25). Therefore, the ALJ examined the evidence of
Plaintiff's impairments and made a finding as to
Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”). In pertinent part, the ALJ found that
has the [RFC] to perform light work . . . except with
occasional postural limitations with an avoidance of
workplace hazards. He needs to alternate between sitting and
standing up to two (2) times each hour. . . . He could follow
short simple instructions and perform routine tasks, but not
work requiring a production rate or a demand pace. The
claimant was also able to sustain attention and concentration
for two (2) hour periods at a time. . . . The claimant should
also avoid work environments dealing with crisis situations,
complex decision making, or constant changes in a rout
setting. The claimant could ...