Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hodge v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division

April 23, 2019

CHERIE G. HODGE, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          FRANK D. WHITNEY, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff Cherie B. Hodge's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 9), filed January 11, 2019, and Defendant Acting Commissioner of Social Security Nancy A. Berryhill's (“Commissioner”) Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 11), filed March 14, 2019. Plaintiff, through counsel, seeks judicial review of an unfavorable administrative decision on her application for Supplemental Social Security Income (“SSI”) and Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”).

         Having reviewed and considered the written arguments, administrative record, and applicable authority, and for the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED; the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED; and the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed an application for Title II and Title XVI benefits on March 23, 2015 (Tr. 13). Plaintiff alleges disability beginning October 8, 2014 (Tr. 13). After his application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing (Tr. 13). After a hearing on September 18, 2017, (Tr. 13), the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision (Tr. 25). Plaintiff's subsequent request for review by the Appeals Council was denied. (Tr. 1). Plaintiff now appeals this decision to this Court.

         In the case at bar, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 8, 2014, and meets the insured status requirements through December 31, 2019. (Tr.16). The ALJ found Plaintiff to have the following severe impairments: “fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, history of carpal tunnel syndrome, anxiety, and depression (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c))[.]” (Tr. 16). The ALJ determined Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, App. 1. (Tr. 16). The ALJ then found Plaintiff had the Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b), 416.967(b), with the following additional limitations:

The claimant is capable of only occasionally stooping; frequent but not continuous overhead reaching with the right upper extremity and frequent but not constant handling with the bilateral upper extremities. She must avoid concentrated exposure to hazards (machinery) and is limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks in a stable environment at a nonproduction pace with occasional public contact. She would be off task 9% of an 8-hour workday and can concentrate greater than 2 hours of an 8-hour workday.

(Tr. 18). In response to a hypothetical that factored in Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the vocational expert (“VE”) testified that Plaintiff could perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy, including: merchandise labeler, routing clerk, and work ticket distributor. (Tr. 25). As a result, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff was not disabled, as defined under the Social Security Act, from October 8, 2014, through the date of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 25). Plaintiff has exhausted all administrative remedies and now appeals pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Section 405(g) of Title 42 of the United States Code provides judicial review of the Social Security Commissioner's denial of social security benefits. When examining a disability determination, a reviewing court is required to uphold the determination when an ALJ has applied correct legal standards and the ALJ's factual findings are supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Westmoreland Coal Co., Inc. v. Cochran, 718 F.3d 319, 322 (4th Cir. 2013); Bird v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 699 F.3d 337, 340 (4th Cir. 2012). A reviewing court may not re-weigh conflicting evidence or make credibility determinations because “it is not within the province of a reviewing court to determine the weight of the evidence, nor is it the court's function to substitute its judgment for that of the Secretary if his decision is supported by substantial evidence.” Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 2013).

         “Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Johnson v. Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650, 653 (4th Cir. 2005) (alteration and internal quotation marks omitted). “It consists of more than a mere scintilla of evidence but may be less than a preponderance.” Pearson v. Colvin, 810 F.3d 204, 207 (4th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted). We do not reweigh evidence or make credibility determinations in evaluating whether a decision is supported by substantial evidence; “[w]here conflicting evidence allows reasonable minds to differ, ” we defer to the ALJ's decision. Johnson, 434 F.3d at 653.

         “In order to establish entitlement to benefits, a claimant must provide evidence of a medically determinable impairment that precludes returning to past relevant work and adjustment to other work.” Flesher v. Berryhill, 697 Fed.Appx. 212 (4th Cir. 2017) (citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1508, 404.1520(g)). In evaluating a disability claim, the Commissioner uses a five-step process. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. Pursuant to this five-step process, the Commissioner asks, in sequence, whether the claimant: (1) worked during the alleged period of disability; (2) had a severe impairment; (3) had an impairment that met or equaled the severity of a listed impairment; (4) could return to his past relevant work; and (5) if not, could perform any other work in the national economy. Id.; see also Lewis v. Berryhill, 858 F.3d 858, 861 (4th Cir. 2017) (citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4)). The claimant bears the burden of proof at steps one through four, but the burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five. See Lewis, 858 F.3d at 861; Monroe v. Colvin, 826 F.3d 176, 179-80 (4th Cir. 2016).

         “If the claimant fails to demonstrate she has a disability that meets or medically equals a listed impairment at step three, the ALJ must assess the claimant's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) before proceeding to step four, which is ‘the most [the claimant] can still do despite [her physical and mental] limitations [that affect h[er] ability to work].'” Lewis, 858 F.3d at 861-62 (quoting 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545(a)(1), 416.945(a)(1)). In Lewis, the Fourth Circuit explained the considerations applied before moving to step four:

[The RFC] determination requires the ALJ to “first identify the individual's functional limitations or restrictions and assess his or her work-related abilities on a function-by-function basis, including the functions listed in the regulations.” Mascio, 780 F.3d at 636 (internal quotations omitted); see also SSR 96-8p, 1996 WL 374184, at *1 (July 2, 1996). Once the function-by-function analysis is complete, an ALJ may define the claimant's RFC “in terms of the exertional levels of work, sedentary, light, medium, heavy, and very heavy.” SSR 96-8p, 1996 WL 374184, at *1. See ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.