United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Abingdon Division
JOHN H. GLOVIER, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
K. Lee, The Lee Law Firm of Wise, P.C., Wise, Virginia, for
Plaintiff; Theresa A. Casey, Special Assistant United States
Attorney, Office of the General Counsel, Social Security
Administration, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. JONES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
social security disability case, I affirm the final decision
of the Acting Commissioner.
plaintiff filed this action challenging the final decision of
the Acting Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying the plaintiff's
claim for a period of disability and disability insurance
benefits under title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-433. Jurisdiction of this court exists
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
review is limited to a determination as to whether there is
substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's final
decision. If substantial evidence exists, this court's
“inquiry must terminate, ” and the final decision
of the Commissioner must be affirmed. Laws v.
Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640, 642 (4th Cir. 1966).
Substantial evidence has been defined as “evidence
which a reasoning mind would accept as sufficient to support
a particular conclusion. It consists of more than a mere
scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less than a
plaintiff protectively applied for benefits on April 30,
2013, alleging disability since April 17, 2013, and received
a hearing before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) on June 3, 2016. By decision dated July
13, 2016, the ALJ found that the plaintiff was not disabled
within the meaning of the Act. The Social Security
Administration's Appeals Council denied review, and the
ALJ's opinion constitutes the final decision of the
parties have briefed the issues, and the case is now ripe for
Commissioner applies a five-step sequential evaluation
process in assessing an applicant's disability claim. The
Commissioner considers, in sequence, whether the claimant:
(1) worked during the alleged period of disability, (2) had a
severe impairment, (3) had a condition which met or equaled
the severity of a listed impairment, (4) could return to his
past relevant work, and (5) if not, whether he could perform
other work in the national economy. If a decision can be
reached at any step, further evaluation is unnecessary. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4). Under the Act, it is always a
claimant's burden to provide evidence of disability.
Blalock v. Richardson, 483 F.2d 773, 775 (4th Cir.
1972); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1512. In order to carry this
burden, there must be a physical or mental impairment that
results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological
abnormalities demonstrated by medically acceptable clinical
and laboratory diagnostic techniques. 42 U.S.C. §
upon the evidence, the ALJ determined that the plaintiff is
unable to return to past relevant work, but has the residual
functional capacity to perform work, as defined in the
regulations. Based upon the testimony of a vocational expert,
the ALJ found that there existed a significant number of jobs
in the national economy that the plaintiff could perform.
plaintiff makes two arguments in this appeal of the
Commissioner's decision. The plaintiff served in the
military from 1988 to 1995 and receives disability benefits
from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), based on
degenerative conditions of his knees and lumbar and cervical
spine. The plaintiff first argues that the ALJ failed to give
appropriate weight to the VA's disability rating. In
considering the plaintiff's ability to work, the ALJ was
required to give substantial weight to a VA disability
rating. Bird v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 699
F.3d 337, 345 (4th Cir. 2012). “However, because the
SSA employs its own standards for evaluating a claimant's
alleged disability, and because the effective date of
coverage for a claimant's disability under the two
programs likely will vary, an ALJ may give less weight to a
VA disability rating when the record before the ALJ clearly
demonstrates that such a deviation is appropriate.”
Id. at 343. In this case, the ALJ discussed the VA
disability rating at length and in detail. R. at 22-24, ECF
No. 6-1. He further adequately explained why the VA's
rating did not justify a finding of disability under the
Social Security Act. Id.
plaintiff's attorney arranged a mental health examination
of the plaintiff by B. Wayne Lanthorn, Ph.D., a licensed
clinical psychologist, who found the plaintiff to be
suffering from major depressive disorder and panic disorder.
The plaintiff next argues that the ALJ erred in failing to
give full consideration to the findings of Dr. Lanthorn on
the severity of the plaintiff's mental impairments and
the resulting effects on his ability to work. I disagree. I
find that the ALJ's explanation for not crediting Dr.
Lanthorn's opinions was sufficient. For example, among
other things, the ALJ pointed to the fact that Dr. Lanthorn
was not a treating source and saw the plaintiff only once;
that the plaintiff saw his treating mental health
professional more frequently, and that his consistent
statements to these sources were more reliable; and that the
wide discrepancies between the plaintiff's accounts of
his symptoms to Dr. Lanthorn and to his other treating
practitioners cast doubt on the plaintiff's credibility.
careful consideration of the record and the briefs of the
parties, I find that the decision of the Commissioner denying
benefits must be affirmed.
foregoing reasons, the Commissioner's Motion for Summary
Judgment is GRANTED and the plaintiff's Motion for
Summary Judgment is DENIED. Judgment will be entered