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.

Laxton v. Berryhill

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

May 29, 2019

RENEA B. LAXTON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          Joe L. Webster United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Renea B. Laxton brought this action to obtain review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her claim for social security disability insurance benefits. The Court has before it the certified administrative record and cross-motions for judgment.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits alleging a disability onset date of June 6, 2013. (Tr. 266-72.)[1] The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. (Id. at 240-43, 248-51.) An administrative law judge (“ALJ”) held a hearing and then determined, on May 3, 2017, that Plaintiff was not disabled. (Id. at 152-62, 168-202.) On March 23, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Id. at 1-5.)

         II. STANDARD FOR REVIEW

         The scope of judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision is specific and narrow. Smith v. Schweiker, 795 F.2d 343, 345 (4th Cir. 1986). Review is limited to determining if there is substantial evidence in the record to support the Commissioner's decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Hunter v. Sullivan, 993 F.2d 31, 34 (4th Cir. 1992); Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). In reviewing for substantial evidence, the Court does not re-weigh conflicting evidence, make credibility determinations, or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589 (4th Cir. 1996). The issue before the Court is not whether Plaintiff is disabled but whether the finding that she is not disabled is supported by substantial evidence and based upon a correct application of the relevant law. Id.

         III. THE ALJ'S DECISION

         The ALJ followed the well-established sequential analysis to ascertain whether the claimant is disabled, which is set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. See Albright v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 174 F.3d 473, 475 n.2 (4th Cir. 1999). The ALJ determined at step one that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of June 6, 2013. (Tr. 154.) The ALJ next found the following severe impairments at step two: traumatic brain injury, right mild sensorineural hearing loss and left mild to moderate sensorineural hearing loss, post-traumatic stress disorder, unspecified depressive disorder, neurocognitive disorder, and migraines. (Id.) At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments listed in, or medically equal to one listed in, Appendix 1. (Id. at 154-56.) The ALJ next set forth Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) and determined that she could perform light work, except that

she should avoid concentrated exposure to unprotected heights, moving machinery and other workplace hazards. She should avoid even moderate exposure to excessive noise. She is limited to simple routine repetitive tasks in unskilled work and not at a production rate. She should be in a low stress environment, meaning no constant changes in routine, no complex decision-making, and no crisis situations. She can have occasional interaction with the public, supervisors and coworkers, and she can stay on task for two hours at a time throughout the workday.

(Id. at 156.)

         At the fourth step, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work as a restaurant manager, correction case manager, and correction officer. (Id. at 161.) Last, at step five, the ALJ concluded that there were jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. (Id. at 161-62.) Consequently, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. (Id. at 162.)

         IV. ISSUES AND ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff raises several issues on appeal. First, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ's evaluation of her headaches is not supported by substantial evidence. (Docket Entry 11 at 8-13.) Next, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ's evaluation of Plaintiff's ability to focus and concentrate is not supported by substantial evidence. (Id. at 13-14.) Third, Plaintiff contends that, in assessing the severity of her symptoms, the ALJ failed to consider her recent neurological treatment, misrepresented her mental-health treatment, and failed to consider her past work history and desire to work. (Id. at 15-17.) Lastly, Plaintiff argues that new and material evidence regarding her headaches requires remand. (Id. at 17-21.) For the following reasons, the undersigned finds that Plaintiff's arguments are unpersuasive.

         1. The ALJ's evaluation of Plaintiff's headaches is supported by substantial evidence.

         Plaintiff argues the ALJ's evaluation of Plaintiff's headaches is not supported by substantial evidence. (Docket Entry 11 at 8-13.) More specially, Plaintiff takes issue with the ALJ's findings regarding Plaintiff's headaches when formulating the RFC. RFC measures the most a claimant can do in a work setting despite the physical and mental limitations of his impairment and any related symptom (e.g., pain). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1); see also Dunn v. Colvin, 607 Fed.Appx. 264, 272 (4th Cir. 2015) (unpublished) (“[an] RFC is [a] medical assessment of what an individual can do in a work setting in spite of the functional limitations and environmental restrictions imposed by all of his or her medically determinable impairment(s).”) (internal citation omitted); Hines v. Barnhart,453 F.3d 559, 562 (4th Cir. 2006). The RFC includes both a “physical exertional or strength limitation” that assesses ...


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.