United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division
J. Conrad, Jr. United States District Judge.
MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff's
Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 10), and
Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, (Doc.
No. 12). The motions are ripe for adjudication.
Nichole Bailey (“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 under Title II and Supplemental Security Income
under Title XVI of the Social Security Act
(“SSA”) on July 17, 2012. (Doc. Nos. 9 to 9-1:
Administrative Record (“Tr.”) at 154.) Her
applications were denied first on September 10, 2012, (Tr.
173), and upon reconsideration on February 11, 2013, (Tr.
184, 188). Plaintiff timely filed a request for a hearing on
April 9, 2015, (Tr. 154), and an administrative hearing was
held by an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) on
August 19, 2014, (Tr. 207). Following this hearing, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff was not disabled under the SSA. (Tr.
151-68.) Plaintiff requested a review of the ALJ's
decision, and on May 5, 2016, the Appeals Council granted
Plaintiff's request for review, vacated the hearing
decision, and remanded the case for further proceedings. (Tr.
remand, an administrative hearing was held by the ALJ on May
2, 2017. (Tr. 265.) Following this hearing, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff was not disabled under the SSA. (Tr. 7-20.)
Plaintiff requested a review of the ALJ's decision, but
on January 11, 2018, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review. (Tr. 1.) 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)(3)(A) of the SSA.
(Tr. 10.) 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 July 2, 2012 due to physical 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. 19.) 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”).
case, the ALJ determined at the fifth step that Plaintiff was
not disabled. (Tr. 18-19.) In reaching his decision, the ALJ
first concluded at steps one through three that Plaintiff was
not employed, that she suffered from severe physical
impairments,  and that her impairments did not meet or
equal any of the impairments listed in the
Administration's regulations. (Tr. 12-13.) 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 Plaintiff “has the [RFC] to perform
sedentary work . . . except she needs a sit/stand option
wherein she can change positions every hour without going off
task more than 10%. She can occasionally perform
posturals.” (Tr. 14.) Having established
Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff could
not perform the work in which she had previously been
employed. (Tr. 18.) 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. 18-19.) 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 existed in significant numbers in the
national economy: “call out operator,
” “charge account clerk,
” and “addresser.” (Tr. 19.)
According to the DOT, all of these jobs involve
“sedentary work.” The ALJ accepted the VE's
testimony and concluded that Plaintiff's impairments did
not prevent her from working; consequently, Plaintiff's
applications for Title II and Title XVI benefits were denied.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court must decide whether substantial evidence supports the
final decision of the Commissioner and whether the
Commissioner fulfilled her lawful duty in her determination
that Plaintiff was not disabled under the ...