United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
C. Mullen, United States District Judge
MATTER COMES before this Court on Plaintiff's
Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 7) and
Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 8).
Having carefully considered the motions and reviewed the
record, the Court enters the following findings, conclusions,
procedural history of this matter is as stated in the
Commissioner's memorandum of law supporting the
Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment.
ALJ's findings relevant to this proceeding are as
follows: Plaintiff meets the insured status requirements of
the Social Security Act through December 31, 2013. (Tr. 25).
Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since her alleged onset date. (Id.). Plaintiff has a
combination of impairments that more than minimally affect
her ability to perform work related activities and are thus
considered to be “severe.” (Id.).
However, Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination
of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. § 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 27).
consideration of the entire record, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work with the following
she could frequently climb ramps and stairs; she could never
climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; she could occasionally
balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl; she was limited to
simple, routine, repetitive tasks; her time off task could be
accommodated by normal breaks; she could have occasional
interaction with supervisors, co-workers, and the public; and
she could tolerate few changes in a routine work environment.
(Tr. 28). The ALJ found in the fourth step that Plaintiff is
unable to perform any past relevant work. (Tr. 33). Finally,
at the fifth step, the ALJ concluded based on Plaintiff's
limitations that there are other jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff
could perform. (Id.). Accordingly, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the
Act. (Tr. 34).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
only issues on review are whether the Commissioner applied
the correct legal standards and whether the
Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial
evidence. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390
(1971); Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th
Cir. 1990). Review by a federal court is not de novo,
Smith v. Schweiker, 795 F.2d 343, 345 (4th Cir.
1986); rather, inquiry is limited to whether there was
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson, 402 U.S. at 400. Even if the undersigned
were to find that a preponderance of the evidence weighed
against the Commissioner's decision, the
Commissioner's decision would have to be affirmed if
supported by substantial evidence. Hays, 907 F.2d at
appeal, Plaintiff asserts the ALJ made two errors in his
decision: (1) the ALJ improperly weighed the opinion evidence
of Dr. Fredericksen and (2) the ALJ improperly relied upon
the vocational expert (“VE”) testimony.
Plaintiff argued that the ALJ improperly weighed the opinion
evidence of Dr. Fredericksen. Dr. Fredericksen evaluated
Plaintiff and provided lengthy findings that could support a
finding of disability. The ALJ, however, assigned
“little weight” to the opinions of Dr.
Fredericksen. (Tr. 32). Plaintiff argued that the paragraph
in which the ALJ stated that he gave little weight to Dr.
Fredericksen's opinions was conclusory and did not meet
the requirement that the ALJ give specific reasons for the
weight given to opinion testimony. (Doc. No. 7-1, p. 9).
Court agrees with Plaintiff as to the first assignment of
error. Regulation 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527 provides
the controlling standard for evaluating medical opinions in
this case. Regulation 404.1527 states: “We will always
give good reasons in our notice of determination or decision
for the weight we give your treating source's medical
opinion.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(c)(2)(ii).
That requirement is consistent with Fourth Circuit law
requiring the ALJ to “build an accurate and ...