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Roddey v. Saul

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

November 6, 2019

ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner, Social Security Administration,[1] Defendant.


          Kenneth D. Bell United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff Christopher Allan Roddey's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 9) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 11), as well as the parties' briefs and exhibits. Plaintiff, through counsel, seeks judicial review of an unfavorable administrative decision on his application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits.

         Having reviewed and considered the written arguments, administrative record, and applicable authority, and for the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED; Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED; and the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Roddey filed a Title II application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits on April 26, 2016, alleging disability beginning August 2, 2014, which he later amended to claim that his disability onset date was August 18, 2015. His claim was denied at the initial level on May 12, 2016 and upon reconsideration on August 29, 2016. (Tr. 16). He had a hearing before ALJ Randall D. Huggins (the “ALJ”) who denied the application in a decision on August 22, 2017. (Tr. 16-27). Roddey then filed for a review of the ALJ's decision with the Appeals Council, which denied review on February 2, 2018. (Tr. 1-6). The ALJ's decision stands as the final decision of the Commissioner, and Roddey has now requested judicial review in this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         For the reasons stated below, the Court affirms the decision of the Commissioner.


         The ALJ used the required five-step sequential evaluation process established by the Social Security Administration to determine if Roddey had a “disability” under the law during the relevant period.[2] 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”).

         The ALJ found at step one of the sequential evaluation that Plaintiff had not engaged in SGA during the period from his amended alleged onset date of August 18, 2015 through the date of his decision.[3] (Tr. 16). At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had severe, medically determinable impairments, specifically, “obesity; sleep apnea; status post left femur fracture and open reduction internal fixation; bilateral knee impairments; mild bilateral degenerative joint disease of the hips; tinnitus; headaches; mild neurocognitive disorder due to traumatic brain injury and depression.” (Tr.18).

         The ALJ then found at step three that Plaintiff did not have any impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the conditions in the Listing of Impairments at 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1 (Tr. 19-21). In so concluding, the ALJ discussed in detail why Roddey's impairments did not meet the requirements of Listing 1.02 (“there is no evidence of an inability to perform fine and gross movements effectively nor an inability to ambulate effectively”), Listing 3.00 (“The claimant's sleep apnea does not meet any of these listings. The claimant does not have forced vital capacity (FVC) or forced expiratory volume (FEVl) testing indicating listing level severity. The claimant has not had to be hospitalized for this condition … ”) or Listings 12.04 and 12.06 related to his mental impairments (the mental impairments did not “result in at least one extreme or two marked limitations in a broad area of functioning; rather, Roddey had at most “moderate” limitations in several areas. Further, he did not show a medically documented history of at least 2 years duration, consisting of medical treatment, mental health therapy, psychosocial support(s), or a highly structured setting(s) that is ongoing and diminishes the symptoms of mental disorder such that there is minimal capacity to adopt to changes in environment or demands not already part of daily life).[4]

         After step three, the ALJ determined Roddey's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) and discussed at length why he came to that conclusion. (Tr. 21-25). The ALJ found that Roddey had the RFC to perform sedentary work, as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(a) as follows:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) except: requires an assistive device such as a cane to stand, walk and/or balance while being able to remain on task at a sedentary work station; occasional pushing/pulling with the bilateral lower extremities to the same extent he is able to lift/carry; occasional climbing of ramps or stairs; never climbing ladders, ropes or scaffolds; occasional balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching or crawling; avoid concentrated exposure to loud noise, vibration, unprotected heights, moving mechanical parts and bright lights (defined as light brighter than standard office lighting); limited to simple work related instructions and directions; limited to simple, routine tasks, but not at a production rate pace (e.g. assembly line work); capable of sustaining concentration and pace for two-hour segments during a standard eight-hour workday; limited to occasional contact with supervisors, coworkers and the public; capable of responding appropriately to routine changes in an unskilled work setting.

(Tr. 21).

         The ALJ then found at step four that Roddey is unable to perform his past relevant work in building maintenance and as a machinist because he is currently limited to a reduced range of sedentary work. (Tr. 26). Finally, at step five, the ALJ found that Plaintiff - given his age (36), high school education, work experience and RFC - could perform jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy, such as a “surveillance system monitor, ” “stuffer, ” and “paster.” (Tr. 26-27). Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Roddey “has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, at any time from August 18, 2015, the alleged onset date, through [August 22, 2017, the date of the ALJ's decision].” (Tr. 27).

         III. ...

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