United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
JOHN C. LONG III, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
L. PATRICK AULD, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff, John C. Long III, brought this action pursuant to the Social Security Act (the "Act") to obtain judicial review of a final decision of Defendant, the Commissioner of Social Security, denying Plaintiff's claim for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). (Docket Entry 1.) The Court has before it the certified administrative record (cited herein as "Tr. ___"), as well as the parties' cross-motions for judgment (Docket Entries 12, 14). For the reasons that follow, the Court should enter judgment for Defendant.
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on July 14, 2009 (protective filing date), alleging a disability onset date of December 12, 2007. (Tr. 184-85.) He subsequently amended the alleged onset date to January 29, 2008. (Tr. 186-87.) Upon denial of Plaintiff's application initially (Tr. 68-69) and on reconsideration (Tr. 70), he requested a hearing de novo before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). Plaintiff, his attorney, and a vocational expert ("VE") attended the hearing. (Tr. 33-65.) By decision dated March 23, 2012, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act. (Tr. 20-32.) On June 10, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review (Tr. 1-4), 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] has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 29, 2008, the amended alleged onset date.
2. [Plaintiff] has the following severe impairments: neurosis; myofascial syndrome; degenerative disc disease and radiculopathy of the lumbar spine; inguinal pain secondary to inguinal hernia, status post right inguinal repair; and cervicalgia secondary to right foraminal disc extrusion at C5-6.
3. [Plaintiff] does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
4.... [Plaintiff] has the residual functional capacity to perform light work... except he requires the ability to alternate between sitting and standing at will. He is limited to occasional climbing, balancing, stooping, bending, crouching, crawling, and overhead reaching, but should avoid hazards. Mentally, he is capable of working at a non-production pace with no complex decision-making, no constant changes in work setting, and no dealing with crises. He can have no contact with the public, but can have contact with co-workers and supervisors.
5. [Plaintiff] is unable to perform any past relevant work.
9.... [T]here are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that [Plaintiff] can perform.
10. [Plaintiff] has not been under a disability, as defined in the  Act, from January 29, 2008, through the date of this decision.
(Tr. 25-32 (internal parenthetical citations omitted).)
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 [the Court's] review of [such a] decision... is ...