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Reedy v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Big Stone Gap Division

July 11, 2016

CLAUDE M. REEDY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Lewey K. Lee, Lee & Phipps, P.C., Wise, Virginia, for Plaintiff; Nora Koch, Acting Regional Chief Counsel, Region III, Nicole Schmid, Assistant Regional Counsel, and Maija DiDomenico, Special Assistant United States Attorney, Office of the General Counsel, Social Security Administration, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          James P. Jones United States District Judge

         In this social security case, I affirm the final decision of the Commissioner.

         I.

         Plaintiff Claude M. Reedy filed this action challenging the denial by the Commissioner of Social Security (the “Commissioner”) of his applications for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income benefits (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (“Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434, 1381-1383f. Jurisdiction of this court exists under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).

         The plaintiff filed an application for DIB and SSI on October 27, 2010. Both applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. Thereafter, the plaintiff obtained a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). That hearing was held on July 22, 2013. The plaintiff and Joann Hayward (an impartial vocational expert) testified. On August 30, 2013, the ALJ issued a written decision finding that Reedy was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. Reedy requested review by the Social Security Administration’s Appeals Council. The Appeals Council denied his request for review on December 22, 2014, thereby making the ALJ’s decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Reedy then filed this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner’s decision.

         The parties have filed cross motions for summary judgment, and this case is now ripe for decision.

         II.

         In assessing disability claims, the ALJ applies a five-step sequential evaluation process. The Social Security Administration regulations set out the five-step process as: (1) whether the claimant has worked during the alleged period of disability; (2) whether the claimant has an impairment that meets the regulations’ severity and duration requirements; (3) whether the claimant has a condition that meets or equals the severity of a listed impairment; (4) whether the claimant could return to his past work, given the medical impairments; and (5) if not, whether he could perform other work present in the national economy. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4) (2013).

         During the first and second step, the claimant bears the burden of proving that he is under a disability, and if he fails to do so, he is determined not to be disabled. Blalock v. Richardson, 483 F.2d 773, 775 (4th Cir. 1972). At the third step, the claimant can still establish his disability if he shows that his impairments match a listed impairment. Monroe v. Colvin, No. 15-1098, 2016 WL 3349355, at *2 (4th Cir. June 16, 2016) (citing Mascio v. Colvin, 780 F.3d 632, 634-35 (4th Cir. 2015)). If the claimant fails at steps one, two, and three, then at step four, the ALJ makes an assessment of the claimant’s residual functional capacity (“RFC”).[1]The claimant still bears the burden of showing that 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. §§ 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B). At step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the claimant can, in fact, engage in substantial, gainful work, which exists in the national economy.[2] See Monroe, 2016 WL 3349355, at *2.

         In accordance with the Act, I must uphold the Commissioner’s findings if substantial evidence supports them and the findings were reached through the application of the correct legal standard. Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589 (4th Cir. 1996). Substantial evidence means “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Substantial evidence is “more than a mere scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less than a preponderance.” Laws v. Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640, 642 (4th Cir. 1966). It is not the role of the court to substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990).

         I have carefully reviewed the evidence and conclude that the ALJ’s decision in this case is supported by substantial evidence and was reached through application of the correct legal standards.

         III.

         The plaintiff was 54 years old when he claimed disability on October 16, 2008. He has a college degree and a work history in sales as a sales person and store owner. He last worked in October 2008. The plaintiff claims disability based upon depression, paranoid schizophrenia, anxiety attacks, hypertension, and a hernia. He says he has a history of constant paranoia, ...


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