In March, 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued an important social security decision affecting North Carolina. Mascio v. Colvin, 780 F.3d 632 (4th Circuit 2015). In its decision, the Court stated that proper vocational consideration of a claim involving an individual with mental limitations requires comprehensive evaluation of the person’s impairment on limitations in concentration, persistence and pace. The court pointed out that the ability to perform simple tasks differs from the ability to stay on task and only the latter limitation would account for an individual’s limitation in concentration, persistence or pace. Simply limiting an individual to unskilled work does not take into consideration limitations in concentration, persistence or pace.
Another important aspect of the Court’s decision in Mascio is the requirement that the ALJ consider the provisions of Social Security Ruling 96-8p that require a function analysis before assessing an individual’s capability to perform work activity. If there is medical evidence in the record supporting a functional limitation such as an individual’s ability to only walk two hours in a work day, the ALJ must include a narrative discussion describing how the credibility of the evidence and its impact on functional capability. Simply including a conclusory statement that an individual can lift 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently is not the kind of discussion required. The ALJ must explain how an individual can perform these functions for a full work day, not just at one time.