United States District Court, D. New Jersey
JAMES R. BERTHOLD, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MCNULTY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
James Berthold brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3) to review a final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security
("Commissioner") denying his claims to Disability
Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-34. For the
reasons set forth below, the decision of the Administrative
Law Judge ("ALJ") is AFFIRMED.
claimant, Mr. Berthold, seeks to reverse a finding that he
did not meet the Social Security Act's definition of
disability from May 13, 2013, the onset date, through
September 30, 2014, the late last insured. (R.
26).The claimant filed his original application
on January 6, 2014. (R. 17) The claim was denied on August
26, 2014. (R. 17) The claimant received a hearing before
Administrative Law Judge Ricardy Damille on April 29, 2016.
(A copy of the Hearing Transcript ("Tr.") is at R.
33-58.) Mr. Berthold, who was represented by counsel,
testified, as did a Vocational Expert ("VE"),
17, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision which found the claimant
not disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act. (R.
14-32). Mr. Berthold, still represented by counsel, sought
review from the Appeals Council, which denied review,
rendering the ALJ's decision final. (R. 1-4). This
district court action followed.
ALJ'S DECISION AND STANDARD OF REVIEW
qualify for DIB or SSI, a claimant must meet income and
resource limitations and show that she is unable to engage in
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment that can be
expected to result in death or that has lasted (or can be
expected to last) for a continuous period of not less than
twelve months. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382,
1382c(a)(3)(A), (B); 20 C.F.R. § 416.905(a); see
Illig v. Comm'r Soc, Sec, 570 Fed.Appx. 262, 264 (3d
Cir. 2014); Diaz v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 577 F.3d
500, 503 (3d Cir. 2009).
The Five-Step Process
the authority of the Social Security Act, the Social Security
Administration has established a five-step evaluation process
for determining whether a claimant is entitled to benefits.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. This Court's
review necessarily incorporates a determination of whether
the ALJ properly followed the five-step process prescribed by
regulation. The steps may be briefly summarized as follows:
whether the claimant has engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the onset date of the alleged disability. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). If not, move to
if the claimant's alleged impairment, or combination of
impairments, is "severe." Id. §§
404.1520(c), 416.920(c). If the claimant has a severe
impairment, move to step three.
whether the impairment meets or equals the criteria of any
impairment found in the Listing of Impairments. 20 C.F.R. Pt.
404, subpt. P, app. 1, Pt. A. (Those Part A criteria are
purposely set at a high level to identify clear cases of
disability without further analysis.) If so, the claimant is
automatically eligible to receive benefits; if not, move to
step four. Id. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d).
whether, despite any severe impairment, the claimant retains
the Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC") to perform
past relevant work. Id. §§
404.1520(e)-(f), 416.920(e)-(f). If not, move to step five.
point, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to demonstrate
that the claimant, considering her age, education, work
experience, and RFC, is capable of performing jobs that exist
in significant numbers in the national economy. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(g), 416.920(g); see Poulos v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 474 F.3d 88, 91-92 (3d Cir.
2007). If so, benefits will be denied; if not, they will be
The ALJ's Decision
Ricardy Damille followed the five-step process in determining
that Mr. Berthold was not disabled in the relevant period.
The ALJ's findings may be summarized as follows:
one, the ALJ found that Mr. Berthold had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity from May 1, 2013, through
September 30, 2014. (R. 19).
two, the ALJ determined that Mr. Berthold had the following
severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the back;
cervical myelopathy; ...