ELROD v. BERRYHILL, No. 1:2016cv01171 - Document 14 (M.D.N.C. 2017)

Court Description: MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE signed by MAG/JUDGE JOE L. WEBSTER on 9/7/2017; that Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings (Docket Entry 10 ) be DENIED and that Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings be GRANTED. (Docket Entry 12 .) (Sheets, Jamie)

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ELROD v. BERRYHILL Doc. 14 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA TAMARA LYNN ELROD, Plaintiff, v NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) l:l6CYll7l MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE Plaintiff T amaralynn Elrod btought this action to obtain review of a ftnaldecision of the Commissioner of Social Securityl denying her claims fot disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ('SSI'). The Court has before it the certified administrative record and cross-motions for judgment. I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY Plaintiff filed applications fot DIB and SSI on September 6, 201,2 onset date of December 31.,2007,Iater amended to July 10, allegSng a disability 2013. Qr. 12,35,250,269-70, 218-221',224-230.)2 The applications were denied initially and again upon reconsiderarion. t Nancy Berryhill recently became the cting Commissioner of Social Security. Pursuant to Rule 25(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Nancy Berryhill should be substituted for Carolyn !7. Colvin as Defendant in this suit. No further action need be taken to continue this suit by reason of the last sentence of section 205(g) of the Act,42 U.S.C. $ 405(9). 2 Transcrþt citations tefer to the administrative record which was filed with Defendant's Answer. (Docket Enty 7.) Dockets.Justia.com (Id. at1,25-34, 1,37-45.) Plaintiff tequested a hearing before an ,{.dminisuative Law Judge ("ALJ'). Qd. Qd. at1,46.) After a hearing, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled. at 12-23.) The Appeals Council denied a request for review, making the ALJ's detetmination the Commissionet's final decision for purposes of review. Qd. at 1,-4.) II. STANDARD FOR REVIEW The scope of judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision is specifìc and narrow. Smith u. Schweiker, 795 tr.2d 343, 345 (4th Cir. determining decision. if there is substantial evidence 1986). Review is limited in the record to support the Commissioner's 42 U.S.C. $ a05þ); Huntera. Sulliuan,gg3F,2d,31,,34(4th 907 tr.2d 1.453,1456 (th to Cir. 1992); Hay u. Sulliuan, Cir. 1990). In reviewing for substanttal evidence, the Court does not re-weigh conflicting evidence, make credibility determinations, or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Craigu. Chater,76F.3d 585,589 (4th Cir. 1996). The issue before the Court, therefore, is not whether Plaintiff is disabled but whether the Commissioner's finding that she is not disabled is supported by substantial evidence and was reached based upon a correct application of the relevant law. Id. III. THE ALI'S DISCUSSION The,{LJ followed the well-established five-step sequential the claimant is disabled, which is set forth in 20 C.F.R. u. Comm 'r of S oe S ec. Admin. , 17 4 tr .3d 47 SS analysis to ascertain whether 404.1520 and 41,6.920. See Albright 3, 47 5 n.2 (4th Cir. 1999).3 The ,{.LJ determined at 3 "The Commissioner uses a five-step process to evaluate disabiJity claims." Hancvck u, Astrae, 667 tr.3d 470, 472-73 (4th Cft. 201,2) (citing 20 C.F.R. SS 404.1520(a)(4),416.920(Q$\. "lJndet this process, the Commissioner asks, in sequence, whether the claimant: (1) worked during the alleged period of disability; Q)hada severe impairment; (3) had an impaitment that met or equaled 2 step one that Plaintiff had not engaged application in substantial gainful activity since the July 201,3 date. Çr 1,4,35,250.) The ,{,LJ next fou4d the following severe impairments at step two: asthma, fibromyalgia, sleep disordet, sciatica, shoulder disorder, and affective disordet. Qd. at 14-1,5.) At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one listed in Appendix 1. (d. at 15-16.) The ,{LJ next set forth Plaintifls Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC") and determined that could perform a she reduced range of light work in that she is limited to occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. She can frequently perform grasping and fìne manipulation. The claimant cannot reach above shouldet level with the left upper extremity. She must avoid temperature extremes, fumes, odors, dusts, poor ventilation, andhazards including heights and moving machinety. The claimant can understand, remember, and carcy out toutine instructions. She can tolerate only occasional interaction with the public. (Id. at 1,6.) past relevant -{t the fourth work. step, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was unable to perfotm any Qd. at 21,.) Last, at step five, the ,A,LJ determined that there were jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could petform. (d. at21,-22.) Consequendy, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled. ry. ISSUES AND ANALYSIS Plaintiff raises a numbet of issues in her brief. F'irst, she contends that the ALJ erred the requirements of a listed impairment; (4) could return to his [or her] past relevant work; and (5) if not, could perform any other work in the national economy." Id. A finding adverse to the claimant of several points in this five-step sequence forecloses a disability desþation and ends the ^t ^ny inquiry. Id. . in finding that Plaintiff has the physical and mental RFC to perform a reduced range of light work. (Docket Etttty 11, at 9-12.) Second, Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ erred in failing to accord proper weight to the opinion evidence in the record. (Id. at 12-1,4.) Third, Plaintiff alleges that the ALJ failed to find her osteoarthritis as a severe impairment at Step 2 Sequential Evaluation Process ("SEP"). of the (Id. at1,4-1,5.) Last, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred by failing to adequately address the impact of Plaintifls obesity on her ability to perform work activities. (Id. at 15-16.) F'or the following reasons, these arguments lack merit. 1. The ALJ's RFC determination is Legally Correct and Supported by Substantial Evidence. Plaintiff fìrst contends that the -A.LJ's RFC determination is not supported by substantial evidence. (Docket Et tty 1,1 at9-11.) -A.s explained below, the Court concludes that the ¡,LJ did not materially en in the RFC determination, and therefore there was not a misapplication of the medical-vocational guidelines. RFC measutes the most a claimant can do despite any physic F[ines, 453 F.3d at 562;20 C.F'.R. SS 404.1520, 41.6.945(a). aI An and,mental limitations. ,A.LJ must determine claimant's exertional and non-exertional capactty only after considering all pain. a of a claimant's impairments, as 20 C.tr.R. 404.1520,41,6.945þ)-(.). The ,\LJ then must match the claimant's exeftional SS well as any telated symptoms, including See Hines, 453 F.3d at 562-63; abilities to an appropriate level of work (i.e., sedentary, light, medium, heavy, or very heavy). See 20 C.F'.R. SS 404.1520, 416.967. Ary non-exertional limitations may further restrict claimant's ability to perfotm jobs within an exertionallevel. See20 C.F.R. $S a 404.1520,41,6.969. ,{n ALJ need not discuss every piece of evidence in making an RFC determination. 4 See Reid u. Commi¡¡ioner of Soc. F3d 1,206,12'11. (11th 5ec.,769 F.3d 861, 865 (4th Cn.201,4) (citing Dler u. Barnhart,395 Cit. 2005)). However, the ALJ "must build an bridge from the evidence to [the] conclusion." Clffird 2000). ,{.s u. ^ccura;te and logical Apfil,227 F.3d,863,872(7th Cit. to the role of the function-by-function analysis, "[t]he RFC assessment must first identify the individual's functional limitations or restrictions and assess his or her work-related abilities on a function-by-function basis . . . . Only after that may RFC be expressed in terms of the exertional levels of wotk, sedenta{, light, medium, heavy, and very heavy.'? 8p, 1996 WL 37 41,84, at SSR 96- *'1.. A. The ALJ's physical RFC determination is supported by substantial evidence. Here, the -A.LJ's conclusion that Plaintiff could perform a limited range of light work is supported by substantial evidence fot a number of reasons. First, the medical supports the LJ's RFC determination. Fot example, the AU considers evidence Dr. I(ola Adekanmbi's, medical consultative evaluation report in April 2,2013 that indicates Plaintiff had a"notmal gait, tenderness of the joints, pain with rz;nge of motion testing, and strong grip strength." (Tr. 18 referencing Tr.975-78.) The ,{LJ also notes Dr. Adekanmbi's stating Plaintifls ability "to sit, stand, and move around the examination room without much diffìculty." (Id. at 18 referencing Tr. 975.) The LJ gave his opinion "great weight" and Plaintiff has not challenged the ALJ's conclusion. pointed out that in July 8, 20'1,4, Qd. at 19.) Beyond this the ALJ correctly Plaintiffs phalen and tinel signs were negative and motor strength was 5/5 in all four extremities. Qd. at"l.7 referencing 1297 .) Second, the ALJ accurately pointed to Plaintiffs activities of daily living in support of her physical RFC determination. (Id. at 1,5.) For example, the LJ noted that Plaintiff 5 reported no problems in het petsonal care and further stated helping taking care of her mother's house and yatd. Qd. at meals for her mother and does 1,5,298-305.) In addition, Plaintiff indicated she prepares laundry. Qd.) The ALJ also accurately noted that a third party function teport ftom October 9, 20L2, indicated that Plaintiff continued to perform a wide number of daily activities. Qd. at 282,289.) The ALJ found Plaintiffs ümitations in this domain "mild" and the evidence the ,A.LJ relied upon to make this supports her physical RFC determination findings for a reduced range of light work. This evidence supports a physical RFC for a reduced range of light work. Plaintiffs arguments to the conûaLty are unpersuasive. In support of her contention that the .{LJ erred in het physical RFC assessment, Plaintiff repeats her own subjective testimony from the administrative heating and references a number (Docket Entry 11, at 9-1,1, teferencing Nevertheless, Plaintiff does not Tt. ^ppeat .41., to of medical records. 43, 46-47,48, 50-51, 81.3,972-78, 1099.) specifìcally challenge the ,{.LJ's credibility determination which was inconsistent with the medical evidence and the activities of daily living discussed above. Beyond this, the Coutt agrees with the Commissioner that Plaintiffs record citations fatl to ptovide any objective evidence to support Plaintiffls allegations nor do they tefute the ALJ's findings. (See Docket Entry 13 at 1,0-1,L) For the following reasons, the ALJ's physical RFC determination is supported by substantial evidence. B. The ALJ's mental RFC determination is both legally correct and supported by substantial evidence. Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ failed to accur^tely account for her mental limitations in concentration, persistence, and pace ("CPP"). pocket Entry 6 11. at- 11,-1,2.) Specifically, Plaintiff contends that the ,A.LJ did not address her "ability to stay on task and work at a suffìcient pace to perform substantial gainful employment." (d. at 12.) This objection lacks metit as well. In Manio, the hypothetical the ALJ posed to the VE, and the corresponding RFC assessment, did not include any mental limitations other than unskilled work, despite the fact that, at step three of the sequential evaluation, the ALJ determined that the claimant moderate diffìculties in maintaining specifìcally held that it CPP. Masdo,780 F.3d "agreefs] with other ^t had 637-38. The Fourth Circuit iircuits that an ALJ does not account for a claimant's limitations in concentration, persistence, and pace by resticting the hypothetical question to simple, routine tasks ot unskilled Soc. Sec., 631, work." Id. at 638 (quoting Win¡chel u. Comm'r of tr.3d 1176,1180 (11th Cir. 201,1)) (internal quotation marks omitted). In so holding, the Fourth Citcuit emphasized the distinction between the ability to perform simple tasks and the ability to stay on task, stating that "[o]nly the latter limitation would account for a claimant's limitation in concentration, persistence, or pace." Id. Although the Fourth Circuit noted that the,{LJ's eror might have been cured ïry anexplanation as to why moderate diffìculties in CPP did not translate into a limitation in the claimant's RFC, it held that absent such an explanation, remand was necessary.Id. Hete, the ALJ determined at step three that the claimant had moderate limitations in CPP. (It. 15-16.) I. support, the ALJ's assessment in its entirety was: \X/ith tegatd to concenffation, persistence, or pace, the claimant has moderate diffìculties. The claimant reported she c n pay attention for one hour. She indicated she follows written and spoken insttuctions very well. However, the claimant also reported she has problems with memory and concentration 7 @,xhibit 8E). Qd. at 15 referencing Tr. 298-05.) "Pursuant to Masù0, once an,A,LJ has made a step three finding that a claimant suffers from moderate difficulties in concentation, persistence, or pace, the r{LJ must either include a coresponding limitation in her RFC assessment, or explain why no such limitation necessary." See Talmo u. Comm'r, Soc'. Sec.,Civil Case No. ELH- 14-2214,2015 ì7L is 2395108, at *3 (D.Md. May 19,201,5) (unpublished). Here, in contrast to Mønio,the ALJ explained at considerable length why Plaintiffs moderate limitations in CPP were accounted for by the RFC finding stating that Plainttff "can understand, remember, and carry out routine instructions[,]" and "can tolerate only occasional interaction with the public." (Tr. 16.) Specifically, the .A.LJ fìrst evaluated Plaintifls mental impairments at step three to detetmine whether she met or medically equaled the requirements of a disabling impairment under the Listing of Impairments. (Tr. 1,2.04, 1,5-1,6; :ee also 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1, $$ 1,2.06.) In pettinent p^rt, the ALJ determined that Plaintiffs affective disorder and sleep disorder did not meet or equal a listed impairment because, in part, her disorders resulted in only moderate difficulties in maintaining CPP. Qr. at 15-1,6.) Nevertheless, the ALJ went on to provide additional explanation and support for her mental RFC determination. First, the ALJ accvately pointed out that Plaintiffs mental health status had imptoved over time. For example, the ALJ explained that: As for her mental impairments, mental health treatment notes generally showed an improvement in the claimant's mental status examinations through 2013 and 2014. The claimant presented for an evaluation in June 201,3 and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, mood disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, alcohol 8 abuse, cocaine dependence, and bordedine personaliry disorder. At that time, she was assessed a Global Assessment of Functioning (G,A,F) score of 42 @,xhibit 17F). Following that evaluation, the claimant's mood was variously normal, good, euthymic, and relaxed. She was noted to be making progress effectively using her coping skills. In August 2014, the claimant reported doing much better with a change in her medications and she continued to do well throughout the remainder of 201,4. The most recent progress notes from January 201,5 reflected a huppy and tired mood with the claimant visibly more relaxed (Exhibits óF, 10F, 1,7F,25F, and 34F). (fr. 18, referencing 804-07,993-96,1060-85, 1221-41,,1324-28.) The Court concludes that this is substantial evidence in support of the ALJ's mental RFC fìnding. Second, the ALJ also accutately pointed to evidence demonstrating that Plaintiff could perform a wide variery of activities of daily living and had no deficits in CPP beyond those set forth in the RFC. Specifìcally, Plaintiff self-reported that she could perform her own personal care and do her own she prepared meals laundry. Qd. at 15,299-300.) Plaintiff also self-reported that with her mother and helped her mother cate for her house andyard. (Id.) dditionally, Plaintiff further indicated that she could pay attention for one hour, and that she understood written and spoken instructions "very well[]" Qd. at 15 teferencing 303.) ,{ third-party function report further indicated that Plaintiff could pay attention for several houts. Qd. at 20 referencing 287.) The record also indicates that Plaintiff went outside everyday alone; could shop for groceries, clothing and household goods; and regulady went to church. (d. at'1,5,301,-02.) Plaintiff could also pay her own bills, count change, handle a savings account, and use a check book/money order. Qd. at 301.) Plaintiff also self- reported that she fìnished what she started and spent time with others daily. Qd. at302-03.) Plaintiffs assertions of disabling limitations in CPP are inconsistent with this evidence. 9 Third, the only medical evidence that Plaintiff points to suggesting that she might have additional limitations discounted by the in CPP-þaLfi of Dt. Bradford's medical opinion-u/as specifìcally ALJ. pocket Ent y 1,1, at1,2-1,3.) '{,s discussed below, the ALJ's decision to discount Dt. Bradford on this point was supported by substantial evidence. Consequently, unlike the claimant in Masùz, there is no credible evidence here that Plaintiff suffered from limitations in CPP that tequire additional limitations in the RF'C. Consequently, Plaintiffs contention that rcmand for additional explanation is required by Ma:cio is without merit. 2, The ALJ's assessment of the opinion evidence is legally correct and supported by substantial evidence. Next, Plaintiff argues that the ,{LJ failed to accord appropriate weight to the opinion evidence in the record. (Docket Etrtty 1,1, at1,2-1,4.) More specifically, Plaintiff asserts that (1) the ALJ failed to accotd proper weight to the opinion of psychological consultative examiner, Dr. Dan Bradfotd; (2) the ALJ failed to addtess PlaintifÎs Global Assessment of Functioning ("GAF") scores; and (3) the ALJ failed to give proper weight to Plaintiffs Medicaid disability determination. (Id.) Again, Plaintiffls arguments fail. A. Dr. Bradford's Opinion Plaintiff. argues that the ALJ failed psychological consultative opinion. Qd. to give proper weight to Dr. Bradford's at 12-13 referencing Tr. 19.) The "reating physician rule," 20 C.F.R. S 404.1,527 (.X2), generally provides more weight to the opinion a teattng source, because it may "provide a detailed, longitudinal picture of fthe claimant's] medical impaitmentþ) [which] may bring a unique petspective to the medical evidence l0 of 20 C.F.R. S 404.1,527(r)Q); ¡ee al¡o 20 C.F'.R. S 41,6.927(r)(2)! ,{n -A.LJ refusing to accord of a teaang physician must consider various controlling weight to the medical opinion "factots" to determine how much weight to give it. 20 C.F.R S 404.1,527 (c)(Z)-(6); see al¡o 20 C.F.R. S 41,6.927(Ð(2)-(6). These factots include: (i) the frequency of examination and the length, nature and extent of the treatment relationship; (ü) the evidence in support reating physician's opinion; (rir) the consistency of the opinion with the record as a of the whole; (iv) whether the opinion is from a specialist; and (v) other factors brought to the Social Security Administtation's attention that t'end to support or contradict the 404.1,527 (c)Q)-$); ¡ee al¡o opinion. 20 C.F.R S 20 C.F.R. $ 41,6.927 (c)Q)-$). Significantly, as subsections (2) through (4) of the rule describe in great detail, atreatsng source's opinion, like all medical opinions, must be both well-supported by medical signs and lat:,oratoty fìndings as well as consistent with the other substantial evidence in the case record. 20 C.F.R S 404.1,527 (c)(2)-@; ¡ee al¡o 20 C.F.R. \ a1,6.927 (c)Ø-(4). "[I]f a physician's opinion is not supported by clinical evidence ot if it is inconsistent with other substantial evidence, it should be accorded signifìcantly less weight." Craigu. Chater,76tr.3d 585, 590 (4th Cir. 1,996). As for a claimant's subjective report of bodily limitations, the claimant's report will be rejected unless supported by the treating physician's tecord, such as notes and medical tests, and other objective medical evidence. Id. Hete, the ALJ gave Dr. Bradford's opinion "some weight" reasoning that: Dr. Bradford opined the claimant would have a moderate 4 SSR 96-2p ptovides that "[c]ontrolling weight may not be given to a treating source's medical opinion unless the opinion is well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques." SSR 96-2p,1996 ìøL 374788, at xl fluly 2,1,996). 11 diffìculty performing work activities on a consistent basis, marked difficulty interacting with coworkers and the public, moderate difficulty interacting and accepting instructions from supervisors, and marked difficulty dealing with the stress of a competitive work environment @,xhibit 9F). -{lthough this opinion is based on [Dr.] Bradford's evaluation of the claimant, he did not have the benefit of reviewing the more recent treatment notes, which document improvement in the claimant's symptoms with regular treatment and a change in her psychiattic medications[.] (Ir. 19 referencing Tr.982-89.) A review of the tecord indicates that the ALJ provided substantial evidence for her findings. As the ALJ noted, Dt. Bradford's,\pril 1.3,2013, one-time examination was before much of Plaintiffs recent mental health treatment. Overall, Plaintiff had improvemenrs in her mental health status from2013 to 20"1.4. (SeeTr 1,060-66,1221,,1224,1236-39,1,324'28.) For example, on -A.ugust 29,201,3, Plaintiff denied any suicidal or homicidal thoughts. (d. at 1,063.) In Noveml¡er demonstrating full 201,3, treatment notes showed affect. (Id. at Plaintiff having a hopeful mood and 1239.) Her therapist indicated that Plaintiff was 'lisibly more relaxed," and making good progress towatd her treatment goals. (Id.) Additionally, rn January 2014, Plaintiff reported a happy mood and feelings of "joy and 1236-37 .) relief." (d. at Later in August 201,4, Plaintiff reported that she was doing "much better" and was toletating changes in her medication well. (Id. at 1,221,.) She was alet and cooperative, her mood was euthymic, her cognition and thought process was intact, and she had improved judgment. (Id.) This evidence supports the ALJ's decision to give Dr. Bradford's opinion some weight as it was inconsistent with subsequent treatment notes displaying improvements in PlaintifPs mental status. t2 PlaintifÎs argument to the conúary is unpersuasive. Plaintiff relies upon Monroe u. Coluin,826 F.3d 1,7 6, 191, (4th Cir. 201,6), to argue that the ALJ s explanation of Dr. Bradford's opinion is "precisely the kind of conclusory analysis that . . . did not allow for meaningful substantial evidence review." (Docket Entry 1,1, at 1,2.) Plaintiffs reliance upon Monroe, however, is misplaced. "Social Security Ruling 96-8p explains that the RFC 'assessment must include a narattve discussion describing how. the evidence supports each conclusion, citing specific medical facts (e.g., labotatory fìndings) and nonmedical evidence (e.g., daily activities, observatiotts).' held that " Monme,826 F.3d at 189 (internal quotations omitted). The Fourth Circuit " 'a necessary predicate to engaging in substan'jal evidence review is a record of the basis fot the A.LJ's ruling," including "a discussion of which evidence the ALJ found credible and why, and specific application of the pettinent evidence."'Id. at 189 (citing Radþrd Coluin,734F.3d288,295 (4th Cir. 201,3)). This case is distinguishable discussion as to why concluded that u. legal requirements fuor.r' Monroe because to the record the ALJ provided meaningful Dt. Bradford's opinion received "some weight." (Tr. 19.) Having Dr. Bradford was not afforded the opportunity to review "more treatment notes, which document improvement in fPlaintiffs] recent symptoms," çid.¡, the ,{.LJ's assignment of weight is supported by substanttal evidence. Thus, Plaintiffs argument fails. B. PlaintifPs GAF Scores Next, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ etred "in signifìcance" of Plaintifls GAF scores. (Docket Ent"y failing 1,1, to specifically address the at1,3.) "A GAF'score to be used in treatment decision and may have little to no beadng l3 on is intended . occupational functioning." I-.oue a. Attrae, No. 3:11-CV-014,2011nfl- 4399989, at x4 CX/.D.N.C. Sept. 6, 20"11) (unpublished), adopted 201,1,WL 4899984 CX/.D.N.C. Oct. 1,4,201,1). Consequently, "ir is unsurprising that courts have concluded that 'the failure to reference a GF score is not, standing alone, sufficient ground to reverse a disability determinatioÍr.'" Clemins u. Astrae,No. 5:13-CV-00047,201,4WL4093424,4tx1 CX/.D.Va. Aug. 18,2014) (unpublished) (qøotingParis u. Coluin, No. 7:12-CV-00596 , 2014 WL 534057 , at x6 (tW.D.Va. Feb. 10, 201,4); Loue, 2011 WL 4899989, at*5 (quotation marks omitted). Additionally, reversal on the grounds that the ALJ failed to consider a GAF score "is particulady inappropriate 'where the ALJ fully evaluated the records and treatment notes upon which the (qaoting Pari¡, 201, 4 Gr\F scores were based.' " Id. VfL 534057, at * 6). Hete, the ALJ considered PlaintifPs entire recotd and specifically referenced two relevant GAF scores and ptopedy evaluated the records upon which the G,{F scores were based. (Tt. 18-19.) Contraty to Plaintiffs argumenq "an ALJ is not 'impossible burden ,{.dministrative of mentioning Record." L,ong every piece of tasked with the evidence' that may be placed into the u. Coluin, No. 1:13CV0659, 2015 wL 1,31,291,9, at *8 (À4.D.N.C. Mar.24,20'J5) (unpublished),reportandretvmmendation adopted,No. 1:13CY659,2015 WL 1,646985 (tvI.D.N.C. explain how the mental RFC AIJ" pr. 14,201,5) (citation omitted). Additionally, "Plaintiff does not furthet considetation of þerl GAF scores would have altered the in this case." Williams u. Coluin, No. 1:13CV236,2015 WL 68281,1,4, at *5 (I\4.D.N.C. Nov. 6, 201,5) (unpublished) (emphasis in original). The Court notes that the other G,{'F scores in the record cited by Plaintiff Qr. 362,373,377,386,423) reflecr a timeframe well before her alleged onset date, which brings into question the degree of t4 relevancy such scores may have upon Plaintiffs disability determination. No. CIV.. 1,4-'1187-JìøL, 2015 WL 1,863591,, See Dancan u. Coluin, at x4 (D. I(an. Apr. 23,201,5) ("Two of the GAF' scores to which þ]laintiff appeals were assigned more than nine years before þ]laintiff submitted his SSI application at issue here," thus "fthey are not relevant to a determination whether Plaintiff is disabled ."); Sirio u. Coluin, No. 12-CV-02578-MSK, 2013 WL 45103 24, at *7 (D. Colo. Atg. 24,2013) (.'GAF' scores assess an individual's level of functioning at a specific point time. A.'snapshot'dated six months before the requested disability period was minimally relevant to the ,{LJ's disability determination."). As the ALJ did not err in her consideration of Plaintiffs GAF scores, this argument too fails. C. PlaintifPs the Medicaid Disability Determination. Plaintiff next contends that the ALJ erred by not giving proper weight to her Medicaid disability determination. (Docket Entty 11 at 14 referencing Tr. 1036-89.) In support, Plaintiff argues that "[t]he Nonh Carolina Department of Health and Human Services ('NCDHHS") detetmination should be considered relevant" to her disability determination. (Id.) More specifìcally, SSR 06-03p provides in pertinent part that: evidence of a disability decision by another governmental or nongovernmental agency cannot be ignored and must be considered. . . . ffie are not bound by disability decisions by other governmental and norìgovetnmental agencies. In addition, because other diffetent des and standards than we do for detetmining whether an individual is disabled, this may limit the relevance of a determination of disability made by another agencies may apply gency. However, the adjudicator should explain the considetation given to these decisions in the notice of decision 15 for hearing cases and in the case record for initial and reconsideration cases. SSR 06-03p, Considering Opiruions and Other Euideace F'rom Soarces ll/ho Source.ç" N in Disabiliry Clairn; Conidering Dedion¡ on Divbiligt ongouernm enta / Agenties, 2006 WL 2329939, at x 6-7 (,{."g. 9, Are þt NoT 'Acceþtable Medical Other Gouernmental and 2006). In intetpreting SSR 06-03p, the Fourth Circuit has considered "the precise weight that the SS must afford to a VA. disability 337 rating." Bird u. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin, 699 F.3d ,343 (4th Cir. 201,2). In addtessing this question, the Fourth Circuit noted that, "the VA and Social Security programs serve the same governmental purpose of providing benefits to persons unable to work because of a serious disability." Id. It reasoned further that "þ]oth programs evaluate a claimant?s ability to perform full-time work in the natsonal economy on sustained and continuing basis; both focus on a arralyzing a claimant's functional limitations; and both require claimants to present extensive medical documentation in support of their claims." Id. (quotaions omitted). The Foutth Circuit concluded that "þ]ecause the purpose and evaluation methodology of both programs ate closely related, a disability rating by one of the two agencies is highly relevant to the disability detetmination of the other agency." Id. Thus, "in making a disability determination, the SS",{ [Social Security Administration] musr give substantial weight to a VA disability ra:jng." Id. "However, because the SSA employs it's own standards for evaluating a claimant's alleged disability, and because the effective date of for a claimant's disability under the fwo programs likely will vary, an ALJ may give less weight to a coverage VA disability rating when the record before the ALJ cleady demonstrates that such a deviation l6 is appropriate." Id. but Medicaid awards Consequently, Birdhas subsequently been interpreted to include not only VA awards as well.s in order to satisfy SSR 06-03p and Bird an ALJ must meaningfully articulate how substanial evidence supports a conclusion that the disability determination another Coluin, ^gency No. weight. is entitled to limited or no 5:14-CY-689-KS, 201,6 wL See, e.g., 697138, (unpublished); Hildreth u. Coluin,No. 1:14CV6ó0,2015 *4 ffl, Bird, 699 F.3d at 343; Adam (E.D.N.C. February 22, of u. 201,6) 5577430,x4 (X4.D.N.C. September 22, 201 5) (unpublished). Hete, the NCDHHS concluded that due to Plaintiff's "severe impairments of fm]ajor deptessive disorder, bipolar disorder, and personality disorder," her "ability to perform work at all exertional levels ha[d] been compromised . appropriate. . " such that a fìnding of disabled was Gt. 1087-88.) In her decision, the ALJ specifically Plainti ff s Medicaid dis ability de termina rion recognized and discussed : I also considered the decision of the INCDHHS] from October 201,3. In that decision, the claimant was found disabled and therefore eligible for Medicaid due to an inability to perform basic work-related activities under SSRs 85-15 and 96-9p (Exhibit 18F). This opinion is given little weight because the more fecent tfeatment notes document an improvement in the claimant's mental status with regulat tre tment and a change to her psychiatric medications, as fpreviously] discussed [in the decision]. 5 See Perryt a. Berryhill, No. 2:16-CV-00058-D , 201.7 WL 3044573, at *4 (E.D.N.C. June 28, 2017) (unpublished) ('Subsequent case law within the Fourth Circuit has explicitly extended the holding tn Bird to Medicaid decisions, noting that both the Medicaid and VA disability programs share markedly similar standards and requirements with the DIB and SSI programs at issue here.'), recommendation adoþted,2017 WL 3038222 (E.D.N.C. July 77,2017) (unpublished). l7 (r 20 referencing 1 08ó-89.) Hete, the ALJ's analysis is adequate. The ALJ did not just merely mention the agency determination, but also consideted it. She explained that the agency's decision was afforded little weight because Plaintiffs mental status had since improved. (See Tr 20.) Since the ,{.LJ's explanation is adequate and supported by substantial evidence, this argument too lacks merit. See Cilli¡ u. Coluin, No. 1:14CY426,2015 ìøL 4644777, at *5 (14.D.N.C. Aug. 4, 201,5) (unpublished) (concluding that the ,{.LJ's "handling of the V-4. determination is supported by substantial evidence."). 3. The ALJ's Assessment of PlaintifPs Osteoarthritis is Legally Correct and Supported by Substantial Evidence. Plaintiff next contends that the ,A,LJ erred by not addressing her osteoarthritis6 in the Step 2 discussion of severe impairments or any-çvhere else in the decision. @ocket Entry 11 at 1,4-15.) In regatds to Step 2, the ALJ has the duty "to determine which impairments fP]laintiff has and whether the impairments are severe or non-severe." Coakle1 u. Coluin, 8:15- CV-2788-MGL-JDA, 2016WL7364643, at x9 (D.S.C. Nov. 29,201,6), reþort and recommendation adoþted, CV81,5027 B8MGLJDA,2016 WL 7338716 Q).S.C. Dec. 19, Attrue, C/A No. 2:10-1882-RMG, as the 2011, WL 51,01,531,, 201,6); See al¡o Solesbee u. at*4-5 (D.S.C. Oct. 25,201,1). As long ALJ detetmines that the claimant has at least one severe impairment and proceeds to 6 Osteoarthdtis is defined as "a noninflammatory degenerative joint disease seen mainly in older persons, chatactetized by degeneration of the articular cartiage, hypertrophy of bone at the margins, and changes in the synovial membrane. It is accompanied by pain, usually after prolonged acttvrty, and stiffness, particulady in the morning or with inactivity." Dodand's Illustrated Medical Dictionary 1333 (30th Ed.2003). Danielu.AsTruqCIV. A. 6:07CY020,2008WL2901.342,at*7 (W.D. Va. July 27,2008), reþort and rervmmendation adoþted, CIV.6:07CV00020, 2008 ì7L 3201231, (W.D. Va. Aug. 7,2008) 18 discuss all of the medical evidence, any ettor regarding failure to list a specific impairment as severe at step [2] is harmless." McClain u, Coluin, No. 1:12CV1374,201,4WL2167832, at*4 (À4.D.N.C. May 23,2014) (citations omitted). Further, the ALJ's detetmination of whethet an impairment is severe is a threshold determination. See 20 C.F.R. SS 404.1520(c),416.920(c). "[S]evere" is a term of art, which mearls the impairment at issue "significantly limits fPlaintiffs] physical or mental ability to do basic work activities." 20 C.F.R. S 404.1520(c),41,6.967. Social Security Ruling ("SSR") 96- 8p exemplifies that a "severe" impairment "has more than aminimal effect on Plaintifls ability to do basic work activities." SSR 96-8p. She bears the burden of proving an impairment is "severe." Bowen u. Yuckert,482 U.S. 137,1,46, (1987). Hete, Plaintiff argues osteoarthritis affected het ability to perform certain kinds of work. (Docket Etttty 11, at 1,4-1,5.) In support, Plaintiff provides as evidence her self- teported symptoms contained within the record. Qd.) Further, at the hearing Plaintiff discussed with the VE that: Physically I can't lift my patients any more. It's just too much on my back, my hips. I have trouble walking and lifting for extended periods of time. My hands will not grip any more. I won't even use a rcgtlar glass glass [sic] to drink out of because my hands will go numb and I'll drop whatever's in them. Çr. a1,.) The ALJ points to PlaintifPs activities of daily living. For example, the ALJ points to PlaintifPs self-report that she could perform her own personal care a¡d do her own laundry. (d. at'15,299-300.) Plaintiff also self-repoted that she prepared meals with her mother and helped her mothet c^re for her house and yard. t9 (Id.) Second, in tetms of Plaintiffls osteoarthritis in her shoulder, the ALJ points to Plaintiffs 5f 5 motor strength and sensation being grossly intact. (Id. at 1,7,874.) In addition, the ALJ points to Plaintiffs stable left shoulder with slow but steady improvement aftet PlaintifPs physical therapy. (f d. at'17 ,11,07,1110-1,1.) Because the evidence of the recotd suggests that Plaintiff s osteoarthritis does not have more "than a minimal effect on [her] ability to do basic work activities [,]" the ALJ only has the duty to discuss medical evidence regarding Plaintiffs osteoarthrins. McClain, 2014 WL 2167832, at *4. However, a review of the ALJ's decision shows that the ALJ discussed the medical evidence regarding Plaintiffs osteoarthritis by stating: for her pain complaints, the claimant complained of pain and swelling in her hands and lower back pain ín 2013. Physical examination of the back revealed moderate tenderness and ,{.s painful range of motion. X-rays of the lumbar spine demonsttated bilateral L4 spondylosis with L4-L5 spondylolisthesis and mild lower lumbar facet arthropathy. The claimant was diagnosed with aî a,cvte exacerbation of lower back pain (Exhibit 7F). Physical examination of her hands showed swelling and tenderness but no synovitis, warmth, or effusion, intact range of motion, and normal sensation. An ultrasound of the bilateral upper extremities was normal. Phalen and Tinel signs were negative and motor strength was 5/5 in all four exttemities. Diagnoses included joint effusion of the hands, osteoarthritis, and inflammatory arthropathy (Exhibits 7F, 22F, 29F, and 33F). (Ir. 18 teferencing Tr. 874,1200-08, 1292-99,1321-33.) In conclusion, the ALJ states that due to Plaintiff s osteoarthritis, she is limited to "work at the light exertional level with postural limitations and only frequent grasping and fìne manipulation." Qd.) Á,lthough the ALJ does not mention in Step 2 that Plaintiffs osteoarthritis is a severe impairment, the ,\LJ correctly considered it. In any event, failure to do so was harmless error. 20 McClairu, 201,4 WL 21,67832, ^tx4. Thus, Plaintiffls argument fails. 4. The ALJ's Evaluation of PlaintifPs Obesity is Legally Correct. Next, Ptaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to discuss her "diagnosis of obesity and its effects on her ability to work." (Docket Entry 11 at 15-1,6.) More specifically, Plaintiff contends "nowhere in the decision did [the LJ] specifically analyze the impact" of obesiry on Plaintiff. (Id.) The determination process fot obesity tequires an AIJ to consider impairments about which the ALJ receives evidence. Edge u. Coluin, 1,:1,0CY493, 201,3 WL 1621.993, (À4.D.N.C. Apr. 15, 201,3), report and retvrumendation adoþted,1:10-CV-493, 201,3 WL at x4 4671,649 (À4.D.N.C. A.ug. 30, 201,3). ('rWe will consider only impairment(s) ... about which we receive evidence.'). Yet, an ALJ's failure to consider an impairment about which a claimantprovided evidence does not necessarily require a temand, the action. See if remand would not affect the outcome of Ratherþrd a. Barnhart,399 tr.3d 546,553 (3d Cir. 2005) (concluding that "remand [tó consider plaintiffs obesiry] is not required here because it would not affect the outcome of the case"); Prochaska u. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 731,736-37 (7th Cn. 2006) (concludin g that "a failure to explicitly consider the effects of obesity may be harmless error'). ConÚary to PlaintifFs argument, the ALJ thoroughly discussed Plaintiffs obesity, by stating: Further exacerbating the claimant's physical impairments is her obesity. Treatment notes fiom April 201.4 documented a height of 65 inches and weight of approximately 210 pounds, which resulted in a body mass index (BMI) of 34.9 (Exhibit 19F). Social Secudty Ruling 02-1,p requires me ro consider obesity when determining whether claimants have medically determinable impairments that are severe, when determining 2t whether those impairments meet or equal any listing, and finally when determining the residual functional capacity. In parucula4 obesity may limit an individual's ability to sustain activity on a regulat and continuing basis during an eight-hour day, five-day week or equivalent schedule. These considerations have been taken into account in reaching the conclusions contained in this decision. Gt. 18.) Second, Plaintiff refers to no limitations related to obesity for which the ,tLJ failed to account for with a reduced 2012WL 684987 25S5-MGL ,2013 rzLnge of light work. Clark 4, ñx1,0 (D.S.C. Dec. 14, 2012), ìfL u. Astrwe, S:11-CV-02585-MGL, reþort and. renmmendarion adopted,ClV.A. 8:11- 145037 (D.S.C. Jan. 1,4,2013) ("Plaintiff has offered no rgument as to what additional limitations she suffers as a result of her obesity beyond those that the ALJ acknowledged.") Moreover, the ALJ's RFC determination is supported by reports of physicians referencing Plaintifls obesity, but none of them explaining or acknowledging any functional limitations as a result of PlaintifPs weight. For example, the ALJ points to Dr. dekanmbi's records indicating that Plaintiff was obese by stating Plaintiff was 65 inches in height and 201, pounds in weight, but Dr. ,{dekanmbi never referenced a limitation based on his finding of obesity. Qr.18,974.) However, Dr. ,\dekanmbi found Plaintiffls gait normal, and further noted that she could sit, stand, and move around the examination room without diffìculty. (d. at97 5.) The ,{LJ also pointed to the tecords showing Plaintiff having no muscle atrophy, and the ability to raise her arms above her head without Adekanmb i " great weight. difficulty. (Id.) The ALJ gave Dr. " ,\dditionally, the ALJ duly noted state agency medical consultant Dr. Stevin Levin's findings. The ,tLJ pointed to Dr. Levin's report of PlaintifFs abitiry to perform medium 22 work with the ability to "sit for up to 6 hours total in an 8 hour work day, and stand andf or walk for up to 6 hours total in an 8 hour workday." (Id. at 1,9,1.1,1,-1,2) Dr. Levin did not refet to any limitations Plaintiff would suffer from due to her obesity. The ALJ afforded Dt. Levin "some weight." Plaintifls weight was also noted in several medical documents which the ALJ referenced in his findings. (See, e.g., Tr. 841, (weight at 195); Tr. 120L (weight is 216.8); Tr. 1322 (weight is 218); Tr. 1006 (weight at 201); Tr. 7 62 (weight 265); Tr. 796 (weigh t at 265)). All of these reports throughout Plaintiffs medical records recognize Plaintiffs obesity or weight, but no report expressed concerns of great limitations as a result of her weight. Cetainly Plaintifls treating physician would have further addressed the issue of obesiry if he believed it to cause significant limitations for her. ,{.fter reviewing the findings in this case, the Court concludes that the ALJ supported her finding with substanttalevidence. Thus, this argumeût too fails. V. CONCLUSION In light of the above, the Court RECOMMNEDS that Plaintiffs motion for judgment on the pleadings pocket Entry 10) be DENIED and that Defendant's morion for judgment on the pleadings be GRANTED. (Docket F,ntry 12.) Uni Septembet 7,201,7 Durham, North Carolina 23 L. ebstet J States Magistrate Judge

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