United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
SYDNEY O. CURRY Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
J. Conrad, Jr. United States District Judge
MATTER comes before the Court on the parties'
cross Motions for Summary Judgment, (Doc. Nos. 9, 13), and
the parties' briefs and exhibits in support. The motions
are ripe for adjudication.
O. Curry (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of
Nancy A. Berryhill's (“Defendant” or
“Commissioner”) denial of his social security
claim. Plaintiff filed applications for disability insurance
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act
(“SSA”) and supplemental security income under
Title XVI of the SSA on June 10, 2014, alleging a disability
onset date of January 25, 2013. (Doc. Nos. 8 to 8-1:
Administrative Record (“Tr.”) at 24). His
applications were denied first on August 14, 2014, (Tr. 120),
and upon reconsideration on February 24, 2015, (Tr. 128,
130). Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing on March
9, 2015, (Tr. 132), and an administrative hearing was held by
an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) on September
29, 2016. (Tr. 48).
this hearing, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled
under the SSA. (Tr. 21-35). 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 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 Sections 216(i), 223(d), and 1614(a)(3)(A) of the SSA.
(Tr. 23). To establish entitlement to benefits, Plaintiff has
the burden of proving that he was disabled within the meaning
of the SSA. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137,
146 n.5 (1987). Plaintiff alleges that his disability began
on January 25, 2013, due to his mental impairments of
generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder with
agoraphobia. (Tr. 337-385, 398-427, 457, 466-693).
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 [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 his decision, the ALJ first concluded at steps one
through three that Plaintiff was not employed, that he
suffered from severe mental impairments, and that his
impairments did not meet or equal any of the impairments
listed in the Administration's regulations. (Tr. 26-27).
Therefore, the ALJ examined the evidence of Plaintiff's
impairments and made a finding as to Plaintiff's Residual
Functional Capacity (“RFC”):
[T]he claimant has the [RFC] to perform a full range of work
at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional
limitations: the claimant can perform simple, routine jobs
and job tasks that would not require more than occasional
contact with the general public.
(Tr. 29). Having established Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff could not perform the work in which
he had previously been employed. (Tr. 33). Therefore, the ALJ
proceeded to the fifth and final step of the process:
determining whether, given the limitations embodied in his
RFC, Plaintiff could perform any work that existed in
significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 33-34). To
make that determination, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a
Vocational Expert (“VE”). The VE testified that
Plaintiff would be able to perform at least three
representative occupations that exist in significant numbers
in the national economy. (Tr. 34, 61- 62). The ALJ accepted
the VE's testimony and ...