United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division
SUSAN J. GORE, Plaintiff,
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security,  Defendant.
TERRENCE W. BOYLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
cause comes before the Court on cross-motions for judgment on
the pleadings. [DE 36, 41]. A hearing was held on these
matters before the undersigned on August 30, 2019, at
Edenton, North Carolina. For the reasons discussed below, the
plaintiffs motion for judgment on the pleadings [DE 36] is
DENIED and defendant's motion [DE 41] is GRANTED.
brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for review
of the final decision of the Commissioner denying her claim
for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security
Income. After initial denials of her application for
benefits, plaintiff requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which occurred via
videoconference on May 1, 2015. The ALJ issued an unfavorable
ruling, finding that plaintiff was not disabled, which became
the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals
Council denied plaintiffs request for review. Plaintiff then
sought review of the Commissioner's decision in this
the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), and
1383(c)(3), this Court's review of the Commissioner's
decision is limited to determining whether the decision, as a
whole, is supported by substantial evidence and whether the
Commissioner employed the correct legal standard.
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971).
Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion." Johnson v. Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650,
653 (4th Cir. 2005) (per curiam) (internal quotation and
individual is considered disabled if he is unable "to
engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any
medically determinable physical or mental impairment which
can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can
be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
twelve months." 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act
further provides that an individual "shall be determined
to be under a disability only if his physical or mental
impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not
only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering
his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other
kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national
economy." 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).
issued by the Commissioner establish a five-step sequential
evaluation process to be followed in a disability case. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). The
claimant bears the burden of proof at steps one through four,
but the burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five.
See Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5 (1987).
If a decision regarding disability can be made at any step of
the process the inquiry ceases. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4).
one, if the Social Security Administration determines that
the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful
activity, the claim is denied. If not, then step two asks
whether the claimant has a severe impairment or combination
of impairments. If the claimant has a severe impairment, it
is compared at step three to those in the Listing of
Impairments ("Listing") in 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, App. 1. If the claimant's impairment meets or
medically equals a Listing, disability is conclusively
presumed. If not, at step four, the claimant's residual
functional capacity (RFC) is assessed to determine if the
claimant can perform his past relevant work. If the claimant
cannot perform past relevant work, then the burden shifts to
the Commissioner at step five to show that the claimant,
based on his age, education, work experience, and RFC, can
perform other substantial gainful work. If the claimant
cannot perform other work, then he is found to be disabled.
See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4).
argues the ALJ failed to properly address and analyze the
opinion of Richard Campbell, Ph.D., when determining
plaintiffs ability to work. Specifically, plaintiff asserts
that the ALJ failed to adequately explain conclusions drawn
from Dr. Campbell's report and indicate the amount of
weight he was affording it.
Court finds no reversible error because the ALJ's
thorough narrative discussion of the evidence, including Dr.
Campbell's evaluation, is sufficient for the Court to
conduct its review. The ALJ's discussion of Dr.
Campbell's evaluation comes as part of a review of the
medical evidence about plaintiffs psychological health. Tr.
28-31. The review is extensive and detailed. It begins with
plaintiffs last psychiatric hospitalization in 2011, and
proceeds year-by-year, before ultimately concluding that the
plaintiff suffers from depression and anxiety to such a
degree that she is limited to simple, routine, repetitive
tasks, but not prevented from working altogether. And
although the evidence includes particular incidents of deeper
depression and heightened anxiety, none of the evidence
directly conflicts with the ALJ's finding that plaintiff
was capable of working.
Dr. McClure's 2014 evaluation and diagnosis of panic and
mood disorder, to Dr. Campbell's 2015 determination of
plaintiffs average intellectual range and diagnostic
impression of adjustment disorder, to Dr. Latonya Lee
Niang's observations about the plaintiff, all the
evidence of plaintiffs psychological health is consistent
with someone who suffers from anxiety and depression.
Accordingly, the ALJ included additional work limitations
that account for these mental disorders.
fixates on the language at the end of Dr. Campbell's
report stating that it is probable plaintiff would be
impaired in a work setting. This equivocal statement does not
undercut the rest of the evidence reviewed by the ALJ.
Indeed, plaintiffs potential impairment in a work setting is
the reason for the ALJ's finding that she was limited to