United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
J. CONRAD, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MATTER comes before the Court on the parties'
cross Motions for Summary Judgment, (Doc. Nos. 17, 20);
Plaintiff's Motion to Remand, (Doc. No. 11); and the
parties' briefs and exhibits in support. The motions are
ripe for adjudication.
Catherine Jackson (“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 July 22, 2014, alleging a disability
onset date of February 1, 2014. (Doc. Nos. 9 to 9-1:
Administrative Record (“Tr.”) at 22, 153-56). Her
applications were denied first on September 26, 2014, and
upon reconsideration on February 23, 2015. (Tr. 22).
Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing on April 22,
2015, and an administrative hearing was held by an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) on September 16,
this hearing, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled
under the SSA. (Tr. 19-35). Plaintiff requested a review of
the ALJ's decision, but on October 30, 2017, the Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for a review. (Tr. 1-
3). 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. 22). 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 February 1, 2014, 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. 35). 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, and
that her impairments did not meet or equal any of the
impairments listed in the Administration's regulations.
(Tr. 24-30). 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 posturals; frequent handling with both upper
extremities . . . and limited to simple, routine, repetitive
tasks, with ability to perform these tasks for two-hour
periods with normal rest breaks in an eight-hour day.
(Tr. 30). Having established Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff could not perform the work in which
she had previously been employed. (Tr. 33-34). 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. 34-35). To
make that determination, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a
Vocational Expert (“VE”). The VE testified that
Plaintiff could perform the following representative jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy:
“unskilled cashier, ” “sales attendant,
” and “routing
clerk.” (Tr. 35). 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. (Id.).
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 under the ...