United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
CLYDE B. MORRIS, 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. 7, 9), and the
parties' briefs and exhibits in support. The motions are
ripe for adjudication.
B. Morris (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of
Nancy A. Berryhill's (“Defendant” or
“Commissioner”) denial of his social security
claim. Plaintiff filed an application for Disability
Insurance under Title II of the Social Security Act
(“SSA”) on September 26, 2013, alleging a
disability onset date of September 14, 2013. (Doc. Nos. 5 to
5-1: Administrative Record (“Tr.”) at 311). His
application was denied first on November 6, 2013, (Tr. 475),
and upon reconsideration on December 13, 2013. (Tr. 484).
Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing on February
10, 2014, (Tr. 488), and an administrative hearing was held
by an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) on
December 10, 2015. (Tr. 338-72).
this hearing, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled
under the SSA. (Tr. 447-64). On February 15, 2017, the
Appeals Council issued a decision vacating this decision and
ordering remand for further proceedings. On remand, the ALJ
held a second hearing on July 20, 2017 (Tr. 373-414) and
found that Plaintiff was not disabled on October 3, 2017.
(Tr. 311-30). Plaintiff requested a review of the ALJ's
decision, but on January 25, 2018, 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) and 223(d) of the SSA. (Tr. 314). To
establish entitlement to benefits, Plaintiff has the burden
of proving that he is disabled within the meaning of the
Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5 (1987).
Plaintiff alleges that his disability began on September 14,
2013 due to a combination of physical and mental impairments.
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. 330). 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 her 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 physical and mental impairments,
that his impairments did not meet or equal any of the
impairments listed in the Administration's regulations.
(Tr. 316-19). Therefore, the ALJ examined the evidence of
Plaintiff's impairments and made a finding as to
Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”). In pertinent part, the ALJ found that
has the [RFC] to perform medium work . . . except . . . [he]
is able to stay on-task for two hours at a time throughout
the workday, and so is limited to jobs performing the simple,
routine, repetitive tasks of unskilled work, performed at a
non-production work rate, in an environment without
requirements for constant changes in routine, complex
decision-making, or for dealing with crisis situations; the
claimant is restricted from jobs requiring interaction with
the general public, and is limited to jobs requiring only
occasional interaction with co-workers and supervisors.
(Tr. 321-22). Having established Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff could not perform the work in which
he had previously been employed. (Tr. 329). 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. 329-30). To
make that determination, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a
Vocational Expert (“VE”). The VE testified that
Plaintiff could perform three jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy: “laundry laborer,
” “kitchen helper,
” and “counter supply
worker.” (Tr. 330). According to the DOT, these
jobs each have a Reasoning Level of 2. (Tr. 330). The ALJ
accepted the VE's testimony and concluded that
Plaintiff's impairments did not prevent him from working;
consequently, Plaintiff's application for Title II
benefits was denied. (Tr. 330).