United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
J. Conrad, Jr. United States District Judge.
MATTER comes before the Court on the parties'
cross Motions for Summary Judgment, (Doc. Nos. 11, 13); the
Magistrate Judge's Memorandum and Recommendation
(“M&R”), (Doc. No. 19); and Plaintiff's
Objections to the M&R, (Doc. No. 20). The motions are
ripe for adjudication.
Sheila Kilgo (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review
of Nancy A. Berryhill's (“Defendant” or
“Commissioner”) denial of her social security
claim. Plaintiff filed an application for Disability
Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act
(“SSA”) on August 26, 2014, and an application
for supplemental security income under Title XVI of the SSA
on August 27, 2014, alleging a disability onset date of
September 5, 2016. (Doc. Nos. 10 to 10-1: Administrative
Record (“Tr.”) at 17, 44). Her application was
denied first on December 9, 2014, (Tr. 132), and upon
reconsideration on March 30, 2015. (Tr. 143, 151). Plaintiff
filed a timely request for a hearing on May 22, 2015, (Tr.
161), and an administrative hearing was held by an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) on April 3,
2017. (Tr. 35).
this hearing, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled
under the SSA. (Tr. 14-34). Plaintiff requested a review of
the ALJ's decision, but the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review. (Tr. 1). After having
exhausted her administrative remedies, Plaintiff now seeks
judicial review of Defendant's denial of her social
security claim in this Court.
question before the ALJ was whether Plaintiff was disabled
under Sections 216(i), 223(d), and 1614(a)(e)(A) of the SSA.
(Tr. 17). To establish entitlement to benefits, Plaintiff has
the burden of proving that she was disabled within the
meaning of the SSA. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137,
146 n.5 (1987). Plaintiff alleges that her disability began
on September 5, 2016, due to a combination of physical and
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. 28-29). 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 her
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 she
suffered from severe physical and mental impairments,
that her impairments did not meet or equal any of the
impairments listed in the Administration's regulations.
(Tr. 19-22). Therefore, the ALJ examined the evidence of
Plaintiff's impairments and made a finding as to
Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”). The ALJ found that Plaintiff
has the [RFC] to perform medium work . . . except that [she]
can occasionally climb, and can frequently, but not
constantly, handle and finger with her bilateral upper
extremities. [She] must avoid concentrated exposure to fume
and hazards such as heights. [She] can perform simple,
routine, repetitive tasks, in a stable environment at a
nonproductive pace. [She] would be off tasks for 9% of the
time for an eight-hour workday.
(Tr. 23). Having established Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff could not perform the work in which
she had previously been employed. (Tr. 27). Therefore, the
ALJ proceeded to the fifth and final step of the process:
determining whether, given the limitations embodied in her
RFC, Plaintiff could perform any work that existed in
significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 27-28). To
make that determination, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a
Vocational Expert (“VE”). The VE testified that
Plaintiff could perform at least three representative
occupations that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy (Tr. 28, 58-59). All of these jobs involve medium
exertion according to the DOT. The ALJ accepted the ...