United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
J. CONRAD, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff's
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, (Doc. No. 11);
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 13);
and the parties' briefs and exhibits in support. The
motions are ripe for adjudication.
Jackson (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of
Nancy A. Berryhill's (“Defendant” or
“Commissioner”) denial of her social security
claim. Plaintiff filed applications for Disability Insurance
Benefits under Title II and Supplemental Security Income
under Title XVI of the Social Security Act
(“SSA”) on March 8, 2016, alleging a disability
onset date of January 1, 2010. (Doc. Nos. 10 to 10-1:
Administrative Record (“Tr.”) 10). Her
application was denied first on August 25, 2016, (Tr.
101-02), and upon reconsideration on September 15, 2016. (Tr.
137-38). Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing on
September 28, 2016, (Tr. 174-75), and an administrative
hearing was held by an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) on March 1, 2017. (Tr. 34).
this hearing, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled
under the SSA. (Tr. 7-28). 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 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), 223(d), and 1614(a)(3)(A) of the SSA.
(Tr. 10). To establish entitlement to benefits, Plaintiff has
the burden of proving that she was disabled within the
meaning of the SSA. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137,
146 n.5 (1987). Plaintiff alleges that her disability began
on January 1, 2010 due to a combination of physical and
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. 22-23). 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. 12-16). 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 medium work . . . except no more
than occasional direct contact with customers; and simple
routine tasks.” (Tr. 18-20). Having established
Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff could
not perform the work in which she had previously been
employed. (Tr. 21). 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. 21-22). 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: “hand
packager, ” “laundry worker,
” and “machine
packager.” (Tr. 22). The ALJ accepted the VE's
testimony and concluded that Plaintiff's impairments did
not prevent her from working; consequently, Plaintiff's
applications for Title II and XVI benefits were denied. (Tr.
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 ...