United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
MEMORANDUM & RECOMMENDATION
T. NUMBERS, II UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Angelina Wells instituted this action in October 2018 to
challenge the denial of her application for social security
income. Wells claims that Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Mason Hogan erred in (1) determining
Wells's residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
and (2) evaluating her statements on functioning. Both Wells
and Defendant Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security,
have filed motions seeking a judgment on the pleadings in
their favor. D.E. 17, 20.
reviewing the parties' arguments, the court has
determined that ALJ Hogan reached the appropriate
determination. Substantial evidence supports ALJ Hogan's
finding that Wells can perform a reduced range of light work.
And the undersigned finds no error in ALJ Hogan's
determination that Wells's statements were not fully
consistent with the record. The undersigned magistrate judge
therefore recommends that the court deny Wells's motion,
grant the Commissioner's motion, and affirm the
2016, Wells protectively applied for disability benefits and
supplemental security income. In both applications, she
alleged a disability that began in January
2010. After her claims were denied at the
initial level and upon reconsideration, Wells appeared at a
hearing before ALJ Hogan to determine whether she was
entitled to benefits. ALJ Hogan determined that Wells was not
entitled to benefits because she was not disabled. Tr. at
Hogan found that Wells had several severe impairments: morbid
obesity, spondylosis, mild degenerative joint disease of the
left hip, sacroiliitis, osteopenia, and diabetes mellitus.
Tr. at 18. ALJ Hogan found that Wells's impairments,
alone or in combination, did not meet or equal a Listing
impairment. Tr. at 22.
Hogan determined that Wells had the RFC to perform a reduced
range of light work. Tr. at 23-24. Wells can occasionally
climb ramps and stairs, but she can never climb ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds. Id. She is limited to
occasional stooping, kneeling, couching, and crawling.
Id. Wells must avoid concentrated exposure to
pulmonary irritants such as fumes, odors, dust, gases, and
poor ventilation. Id. And Wells must also avoid
concentrated exposure to hazards such as unprotected heights
and dangerous machinery. Id.
Hogan concluded that Wells cannot perform her past relevant
work as a housekeeper, fast food worker, or machine operator.
Tr. at 33. But considering her age, education, work
experience, and RFC, ALJ Hogan found that other jobs existed
in significant numbers in the national economy that Wells
could perform. Tr. at 34-35. These include laundry folder,
cashier, and mail clerk. Tr. at 35. Thus, ALJ Hogan found
that Wells was not disabled. Id.
unsuccessfully seeking review by the Appeals Council, Wells
began this action in June 2018. D.E. 1.
Standard for Review of the Acting Commissioner's Final
social security claimant appeals a final decision of the
Commissioner, the district court's review is limited to
the determination of whether, based on the entire
administrative record, there is substantial evidence to
support the Commissioner's findings. 42 U.S.C. §
405(g); Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401
(1971). Substantial evidence is defined as “evidence
which a reasoning mind would accept as sufficient to support
a particular conclusion.” Shively v. Heckler,
739 F.2d 987, 989 (4th Cir. 1984) (quoting Laws v.
Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640, 642 (4th Cir. 1966)). If the
Commissioner's decision is supported by such evidence, it
must be affirmed. Smith v. Chater, 99 F.3d 635, 638
(4th Cir. 1996).
Standard for Evaluating Disability
making a disability determination, the ALJ engages in a
five-step evaluation process. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520;
see Johnson v. Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650 (4th Cir.
2005). The analysis requires the ALJ to consider the
following enumerated factors sequentially. At step one, if
the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful
activity, the claim is denied. At step two, the claim is
denied if the claimant does not have a severe impairment or
combination of impairments significantly limiting him or her
from performing basic work activities. At step three, the
claimant's impairment is compared to those in the Listing
of Impairments. See 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
App. 1. If the impairment is listed in the Listing of
Impairments or if it is equivalent to a listed impairment,
disability is conclusively presumed. However, if the
claimant's impairment does not meet or equal a listed
impairment, the ALJ assesses the claimant's RFC to
determine, at step four, whether he can perform his past work
despite his impairments. If the claimant cannot perform past
relevant work, the analysis moves on to step five:
establishing whether the claimant, based on his age, work
experience, and RFC can perform other substantial gainful
work. The burden of proof is on the claimant for the first
four steps of this inquiry, but shifts to the Commissioner at
the fifth step. Pass v. Chater, 65 F.3d 1200, 1203
(4th Cir. 1995).
established care with Eastern North Carolina Medical Group in
May 2014 for chronic back pain that radiated into her hips
and legs. Tr. at 450-55. Wells also reported a history of
uncontrolled diabetes. ...