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Lawrence v. Saul

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

October 24, 2019

ANGELA LAWRENCE, Plaintiff - Appellant,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued: September 18, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, at Greensboro. Catherine C. Eagles, District Judge. (1:16-cv-01310-CCE-JLW)

         ARGUED:

          Dana Wayne Duncan, DUNCAN DISABILITY LAW, SC, Nekoosa, Wisconsin, for Appellant. Kristina Carol Evans Cole, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Matthew G.T. Martin, United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Greensboro, North Carolina; Nora Koch, Regional Chief Counsel, Taryn Jasner, Supervisory Attorney, Office of the General Counsel, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for Appellee.

          Before WYNN, DIAZ, and FLOYD, Circuit Judges.

         Affirmed by published opinion. Judge Diaz wrote the opinion, in which Judge Wynn and Judge Floyd joined.

          DIAZ, Circuit Judge:

         Angela Lawrence appeals the Social Security Administration's denial of her application for disability benefits. She argues that the administrative law judge failed to resolve an apparent conflict between the vocational expert's testimony and the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (the "DOT").[1] Specifically, Lawrence contends that her residual functional capacity[2]-which limits her to "simple, routine, repetitive tasks"-may prevent her from performing jobs requiring a General Educational Development reasoning level of two ("Level 2"), contrary to the vocational expert's testimony. She asks that her claim be remanded to the administrative law judge to resolve this apparent conflict. Because we find no conflict between the language describing Lawrence's residual functional capacity and the DOT's definition of Level 2 reasoning, we affirm.

         I.

         On January 16, 2013, Lawrence applied for disability benefits, claiming that various physical and mental impairments rendered her unable to work in any job. The Social Security Administration denied her application initially and upon reconsideration. It determined that, while her condition kept her from doing her past work at MetLife Insurance Company, [3] it did not prevent her from performing less demanding jobs.

         At Lawrence's request, an administrative law judge then held a hearing regarding her claim. The judge followed the required five-step analysis for adjudicating these claims.[4] At step four, he assessed Lawrence's residual functional capacity, finding in relevant part that she could perform jobs limited to "simple, routine repetitive tasks of unskilled work." Accordingly, he determined that Lawrence was unable to work at her former employer in any capacity.

         Step five requires the Commissioner to prove, by a preponderance of evidence, that a claimant can do other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. Thomas, 916 F.3d at 313. To assess Lawrence's ability to do such ...


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