United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division
MICHAEL J. FRANKLIN, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND RECOMMENDATION
DENNIS L. HOWELL, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to obtain judicial review of the final decision by the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's claim for disability benefits. This case came before the Court on the administrative record and the parties' Motions for Summary Judgment [# 7 & # 11]. The Court RECOMMENDS that the District Court DENY the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment [# 11], GRANT Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [# 7], and REMAND the decision of the commissioner.
I. Procedural History
Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits on June 3, 2010. (Transcript of Administrative Record ("T.") 179.) Plaintiff alleged an onset date of October 15, 2009. (T. 179, 204.) The Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's claim. (T. 149-52.) Plaintiff requested reconsideration of the decision, which was also denied. (T. 158-62.) A disability hearing was then held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (T. 76-114.) The ALJ then issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled from October 15, 2009, through the date of the decision. (T. 46-61.) Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision, which was denied by the Appeals Council (T. 1-4). Plaintiff then brought this action seeking review of the Commissioner's decision.
II. Standard for Determining Disability
An individual is disabled for purposes of receiving disability payments if he is unable to "engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months...." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); see also Mastro v. Apfel, 270 F.3d 171, 176 (4th Cir. 2001). The Commissioner undertakes a five-step inquiry to determine whether a claimant is disabled. Johnson v. Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650, 653 (4th Cir. 2005). Under this inquiry, the Commissioner must consider in sequence: (1) whether a claimant is gainfully employed; (2) whether a claimant has a severe impairment that significantly limits his ability to perform basic work-related functions; (3) whether the claimant's impairment meets or exceeds the listing of impairments contained in Appendix I of 20 C.F.R. Part 404, subpart P; (4) whether the claimant can perform his past relevant work; (5) whether the claimant is able to perform any other work considering his age, education, and residual functional capacity. Mastro, 270 F.3d at 177; Johnson, 434 F.3d at 654 n.1; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. If at any stage of the inquiry, the Commissioner determines that the claimant is or is not disabled, the inquiry is halted. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a) and 416.920(a).
III. The ALJ's Decision
In his January 18, 2013, decision the ALJ found that Plaintiff has not been disabled under Section 216(i) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act since October 15, 2009. (T. 61.) The ALJ made the following specific findings:
(1) The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Security Act through December 31, 2014.
(2) The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 15, 2009, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq. ).
(3) The claimant had the following severe impairments: degenerative joint and degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine, osteoarthritis of the bilateral hands, major depressive disorder, and panic disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
(4) The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).
(5) After careful consideration of the entire record, I find the claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) with certain limitations. Specifically, the claimant can lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. The claimant can sit, stand, and walk for about 6 hours each out of an 8-hour workday. The claimant can occasionally climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. The claimant can frequently climb ramps and stairs. The claimant can occasionally stoop and crouch. The claimant can frequently reach overhead, finger, and handle. The claimant must avoid concentrated exposure to hazards. The claimant can ...