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Ward v. Saul

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division

October 25, 2019

PAMELA ANN WARD, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          GRAHAM C. MULLEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER is before the Court upon Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 11) and Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 14). Having carefully considered such motions and reviewed the pleadings, the court enters the following findings, conclusions, and Order.

         FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

         I. Administrative History

         Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability, Disability Insurance Benefits, and Supplemental Security Income in September 2015, initially alleging a disability onset date of May 1, 2013. She later amended her alleged onset date to October 29, 2013. Plaintiff's claim was denied both initially and on reconsideration. Thereafter, Plaintiff requested and was granted a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). After a hearing, the ALJ issued a decision which was unfavorable to Plaintiff. The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff timely filed this action, seeking judicial review of the ALJ's decision.

         II. Factual Background

         In her decision, the ALJ first determined that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her amended alleged onset date (Tr. 17). At the second step, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, Hashimoto's thyroid, bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, back arthralgia, probable carpal tunnel syndrome, asthma with tobacco use disorder, and obesity. (Tr. 17). At the third step, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meet or medically equal the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 18). However, in reaching this determination the ALJ did find that Plaintiff has moderate limitations with regard to concentration, persistence, or pace. (Tr. 19).

         The ALJ then found that Plaintiff has residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform medium work with the following limitations:

except [Plaintiff] must avoid concentrated exposure to fumes, dusts, gases, areas of poor ventilation and extremes of cold; she retains the capacity to perform simple, routine, repetitive tasks; the [Plaintiff] may have no contact with the public, and only occasional contact with co-workers and supervisors; she may only adapt to routine workplace changes; the [Plaintiff] may frequently handle and finger; she may frequently reach overhead; and [Plaintiff] may never drive an automobile for completion of job tasks.

(Tr. 20). As a result, the ALJ found in the fourth step that Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work. (Tr. 28). However, at the fifth step, the ALJ concluded that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform, including assembler, stock clerk, and janitor. (Tr. 29). Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is not disabled under the Act.

         III. Standard of Review

         The only issues on review are whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards and whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971); Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). Review by a federal court is not de novo, Smith v. Schwieker, 795 F.2d 343, 345 (4th Cir. 1986); rather, inquiry is limited to whether there was “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, ” Richardson, 402 U.S. at 400. Even if the undersigned were to find that a preponderance of the evidence weighed against the Commissioner's decision, the Commissioner's decision would have to be affirmed if supported by substantial evidence. Hays, 907 F.2d at 1456.

         IV. ...


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