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Morris v. Colvin

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

May 19, 2014

DALE LEE MORRIS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

L. PATRICK AULD, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, Dale Lee Morris, brought this action pursuant to Sections 205(g) and 1631 (c)(3) of the Social Security Act (the "Act"), as amended (42 U.S.C. ยงยง 405(g) and 1383(c)(3)), to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). The Court has before it the administrative record (cited herein as "Tr. ___"), as well as the parties' cross-motions for judgment (Docket Entries 9, 14). For the reasons that follow, the Court should enter judgment for Plaintiff and should remand this matter for an award of benefits.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI, alleging a disability onset date of April 8, 2006. (Tr. 128-36.) Upon denial of the applications initially and upon reconsideration (Tr. 76-79), Plaintiff requested and received a hearing de novo before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), at which Plaintiff, his representative, and a vocational expert ("VE") appeared. (Tr. 21-55.) The ALJ then ruled Plaintiff not disabled under the Act. (Tr. 6-20.) The Appeals Council subsequently denied Plaintiff's request for review (Tr. 1-3), thereby making the ALJ's ruling the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of judicial review.

In rendering that disability determination, the ALJ made the following findings later adopted by the Commissioner:

1. [Plaintiff] meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2010.
2. [Plaintiff] has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 8, 2006, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1520(b), 404.1571 et seq., 416.920(b) and 416.971 et seq. ).
3. [Plaintiff] has the following severe impairments: disorder of the back, borderline intellectual functioning, fibromyalgia and depression (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c))
4. [Plaintiff] does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.925 and 416.926)
5.... [Plaintiff] has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work involving the lifting and carrying of fifteen pounds. [Plaintiff] can alternate between sitting one hour and standing thirty minutes. He can walk for 100 yards. Moreover, [Plaintiff] is limited to work involving simple, routine and repetitive tasks at a non-production pace.

(Tr. 11-14.)

The ALJ further found that Plaintiff could not do his past relevant work (Tr. 18), but that, based on his residual functional capacity ("RFC"), age, education, work experience, and the VE's testimony, Plaintiff could "perform a significant number of jobs in the national economy" (Tr. 19). Accordingly, the ALJ ruled that Plaintiff did not suffer from a "disability" under the Act from the alleged onset date through the decision date. (Tr. 20.)

DISCUSSION

Federal law "authorizes judicial review of the Social Security Commissioner's denial of social security benefits." Hines v. Barnhart , 453 F.3d 559, 561 (4th Cir. 2006). However, "the scope of [that] review... is extremely limited." Frady v. Harris , 646 F.2d 143, 144 (4th Cir. 1981). "The courts are not to try the case de novo." Oppenheim v. Finch , 495 F.2d 396, 397 (4th Cir. 1974). Instead, "a reviewing court must uphold the factual findings of the ALJ [underlying the denial of benefits] if they are supported by substantial evidence ...


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