United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
MICHAEL D. SILER, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,  Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
JOI ELIZABETH PEAKE, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff Michael Siler ("Plaintiff") 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. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3)), to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his claims for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income under, respectively, Titles II and XVI of the Act. The parties have filed cross-motions for judgment, and the administrative record has been certified to the Court for review.
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff protectively filed his applications for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income Benefits ("SSI") on May 22, 2007, alleging a disability onset date of January 14, 2007. (Tr. at 109-14, 115-22.) His applications were denied initially (Tr. at 60-65) and upon reconsideration (Tr. at 67-75). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing de novo before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (Tr. at 78-79.) Plaintiff, along with his attorney and an impartial vocational expert, attended the subsequent hearing on October 15, 2009. (Tr. at 14.) During the course of the hearing, Plaintiff amended his alleged onset date to June 30, 2008, his fiftieth birthday. (Tr. at 14, 29.) The ALJ ultimately determined that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act (Tr. at 24) and, on March 16, 2011, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the decision, thereby making the ALJ's conclusion the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of judicial review (Tr. at 1-5).
In rendering his disability determination, the ALJ made the following findings later adopted by the Commissioner:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2012.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 30, 2008, the amended alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq. ).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, type II; history of open fracture of right great toe, nondisplaced; chronic kidney disease; and history of alcohol and substance abuse, in clinical remission (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equal one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
11. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except he needs the sit/stand option in one hour increments. He is limited to occasional climbing of stairs and ramps and no climbing of ladders, ropes or scaffolds. He should avoid working at unprotected heights, around dangerous machinery or driving automotive equipment. He is limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks, not performed in a production or quota based environment, and involving only simple, work-related decisions. He is limited to work in low-stress jobs without numerical production goals, that [sic] is unable to work at production rate (i.e. quota base, piecemeal or a conveyor belt). (stress) He is limited to work is a stable work setting or assignment.
(Tr. at 16-20.)
The ALJ then considered the vocational expert's testimony regarding the above residual functional capacity ("RFC") and determined that, although Plaintiff was unable to perform his past relevant work as a truck driver, he could perform other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. at 23.) Plaintiff therefore was not under a "disability, ...