United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
LEVI A. WILLIAMS, 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 and supplemental security income. This case came before the Court on the administrative record and the parties' Motions for Summary Judgment [# 11 & # 15]. The Court RECOMMENDS that the District Court DENY the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment [# 15], GRANT Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [# 11], and REMAND the decision of the Commissioner.
I. Procedural History
Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits and an application for supplemental security income on January 3, 2011. (Transcript of Administrative Record ("T.") 191, 195.) Plaintiff alleged an onset date of January 1, 2006. (T.191.) The Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's claim. (T. 126.) Plaintiff requested reconsideration of the decision, which was also denied. (T. 138-44.) A disability hearing was then held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (T. 31-53.) The ALJ then issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled under Section 216(i) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act. (T. 18-28.) Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision, which was denied by the Appeals Council (T. 1-3). 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 her March 25, 2013, decision the ALJ found that Plaintiff is not disabled under Section 216(i) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act. (T. 28.) The ALJ made the following specific findings:
(1) The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Security Act through September 30, 2011.
(2) The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 1, 2006, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq. and 416.971 et seq. ).
(3) The claimant had the following severe impairments: degenerative joint disease of the lumbar spine, status-post right tibia fracture with open reduction with internal fixation, depression, anxiety, and borderline intellectual functioning (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 equals 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, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
(5) After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c) except occasional postural activity, and avoidance of ladders, ropes, scaffolds, unprotected heights, and machines with dangerous parts. The claimant is able to follow short, simple instructions and perform routine tasks with no reading or writing required. He is able to sustain attention and concentration for two hours at a time. He can work with occasional public contact or interactions, and with frequent, but not continuous contact or interaction with coworkers and supervisors. He is unable to work ...