United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
E. SEIBERT, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Plaintiff advances three arguments, none of which the Court
finds persuasive. Therefore, the Court recommends that the
Plaintiff's [ECF No. 10] Motion for Summary Judgment be
denied and the Commissioner's [ECF No. 12] Motion for
Summary Judgment be granted.
the Plaintiff argues that the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) improperly discounted the psychological
opinions of medical professionals and instead formulated his
own opinions of Plaintiff's limitations based only on his
interpretation of Plaintiff's daily living activities.
However, the weight given to each source is explained
satisfactorily by the ALJ, and substantial evidence exists to
support each finding.
the Plaintiff argues since the ALJ used standards which are
legally insufficient in determining the amount of weight that
should be given to medical professionals who treated
Plaintiff, substantial evidence did not exist to support the
ALJ's overall conclusion. Yet, the ALJ's decision is
supported by substantial evidence.
the Plaintiff argues that since substantial evidence does not
exist to support the ALJ's findings, the only appropriate
remedy is a remand only for the purposes of calculating the
amount of Plaintiff's benefits. However, as stated above,
the ALJ's findings were indeed supported by substantial
26, 2013, the Plaintiff, Kristie Michele Trent Ashcraft,
filed a Title II application for disability insurance
benefits (DIB). R. 23. The Plaintiff's application
alleged a disability beginning May 29, 2013. R. 23. The
Plaintiff's application was denied on September 24, 2013,
and again upon reconsideration on November 22, 2013. R. 23.
Thereafter, the Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing on
December 11, 2013. R. 23. The Plaintiff, represented by
counsel, appeared and testified at a hearing held in
Morgantown, WV on May 22, 2015, as did a vocational expert
(“VE”). R. 23. On August 21, 2015, the ALJ issued
an unfavorable decision. R. 20. The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's findings
on September 28, 2016. R. 1.
November 22, 2016, Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court
to obtain judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner
of Social Security denying her application. ECF No. 1.
THE ALJ'S FINDINGS
determining whether the Plaintiff was disabled, the ALJ
followed the five-step sequential evaluation process set
forth in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520; 416.920. The first
step in the process is determining whether a claimant is
currently engaged in substantial gainful activity.
Id. §§ 404.1520(b); 416.920(b). If the
claimant is not engaging in substantial gainful activity,
then the second step requires the ALJ to determine whether
the claimant has a medically determinable impairment that is
severe or a combination of impairments that are severe.
Id. §§ 404.1520(c); 416.920(c). If the
claimant has a severe impairment or combination of
impairments, then the analysis moves to the third step in the
sequence, which requires the ALJ to determine whether the
claimant's impairment or combination of impairments meets
or equals any of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (Listings). Id.
§§ 404.1520(d); 416.920(d). If an impairment meets
or equals a listed impairment, the claimant is disabled.
Id. §§ 404.1520(d); 416.920(d).
However, if the impairment does not meet or equal a listed
impairment, the ALJ must determine the claimant's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”), which is
the claimant's ability to do physical and mental work
activities on a sustained basis despite the limitations of
her impairments. Id. §§ 404.1520(e);
determining the claimant's RFC, the ALJ must determine,
at step four, whether the claimant has the RFC to perform the
requirements of her past relevant work. Id.
§§ 404.1520(f); 416.920(f). If the claimant does
not have the RFC to do her past relevant work, then she has
established a prima facie case of disability, and
the burden shifts to the Commissioner to demonstrate, at the
final step in the process, that other work exists in
significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant
can do, given the claimant's RFC, age, education, and
work experiences. Id. §§ 404.1520(g);
416.920(g); see also McLain v. Schweiker, 715 F.2d
866, 868-69 (4th Cir. 1983).
one of the sequential process, the ALJ found that the
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since May 29, 2013, the alleged onset date. R. 15. At step
two, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: bipolar I/II disorder without psychotic
features, anxiety disorder not otherwise specified,
personality disorder not otherwise specified, and morbid
obesity. R. 25. At the third step, the ALJ found that none of
the Plaintiff's impairments met or medically equaled the
severity of one of the listed impairments contained in the
listings. R. 26. The ALJ then determined that the Plaintiff
had the following RFC:
[T]o perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c)
except: should work in a low stress environment with no
production line or assembly line type of pace, no independent
decision-making responsibilities, and minimal changes in the
daily work routine; is limited to unskilled work involving
only routine and repetitive instructions and tasks; should
have no interaction with the ...