United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
T. Numbers, II United States Magistrate Judge
Sylvia Swan instituted this action on May 25, 2016, to
challenge the denial of her application for social security
income. Swan claims that the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) William Andersen erred in failing to
resolve inconsistencies between the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) he assessed and a functional
capacity revaluation (“FCE”) contained in the
record. Swan also maintains that ALJ Andersen erred in
failing to assign weight to the North Carolina disability
determination regarding her eligibility for long-term
disability benefits. Both Swan and Defendant Nancy Berryhill,
the Acting Commissioner of Social Security, have filed
motions seeking a judgment on the pleadings in their favor.
D.E. 15, 17.
reviewing the parties' arguments, the court has
determined that ALJ Andersen erred in assigning significant
weight to the FCE without explaining the apparent
inconsistency it presented with his RFC determination.
Additionally, the court is unable to determine the weight ALJ
Andersen accorded to Swan's state disability
determination. Therefore, the undersigned magistrate judge
grants Swan's motion, denies Berryhill's motion, and
remands the matter to the Commissioner for further
10, 2012, Swan filed an application for disability benefits.
In her application, Swan alleged that she lived with a
disability that began on July 17, 2008. After her claim was
denied at the initial level and upon reconsideration, Swan
appeared before an ALJ Andersen on June 19, 2014 to determine
whether she was entitled to benefits. ALJ Andersen determined
Swan was not entitled to benefits because she was not
disabled. Tr. at 43-52.
Andersen found that Swan had the following severe
impairments: osteoarthritis and allied disorders, dysfunction
in the major joints, carpal tunnel syndrome
(“CTS”), and obesity. Id. at 45. ALJ
Andersen found that Swan's impairments, alone or in
combination, did not meet or equal a Listing impairment.
Id. at 46. He then determined that Swan had the RFC
to perform light work with limitations. Id. She can
occasionally to frequently handle and finger with her right
hand. Id. Swan can occasionally climb ramps and
stairs, but she cannot climb ladders. Id. Swan can
occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl and she can
occasionally work around unprotected heights. Id.
Andersen concluded that Swan was unable to perform her past
relevant work as a school bus driver but that considering her
age, education, work experience, and RFC, there were jobs
that existed in significant numbers in the national economy
that Swan was capable of performing. Id. at 50.
These jobs included: office helper, call out operator, and
order clerk. Id. at 51. Thus, ALJ Andersen found
that Swan was not disabled. Id. at 52.
unsuccessfully seeking review by the Appeals Council, Swan
commenced this action on May 25, 2016. D.E. 5.
Standard for Review of the Acting Commissioner's Final
social security claimant appeals a final decision of the
Commissioner, the district court's review is limited to
the determination of whether, based on the entire
administrative record, there is substantial evidence to
support the Commissioner's findings. 42 U.S.C. §
405(g); Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401
(1971). Substantial evidence is defined as “evidence
which a reasoning mind would accept as sufficient to support
a particular conclusion.” Shively v. Heckler,
739 F.2d 987, 989 (4th Cir. 1984) (quoting Laws v.
Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640, 642 (4th Cir. 1966)). If the
Commissioner's decision meets this standard, it must be
affirmed. Smith v. Chater, 99 F.3d 635, 638 (4th
Standard for Evaluating Disability
making a disability determination, the ALJ engages in a
five-step evaluation process. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520;
see Johnson v. Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650 (4th Cir.
2005). The analysis requires the ALJ to consider the
following enumerated factors sequentially. At step one, if
the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful
activity, the claim is denied. At step two, the claim is
denied if the claimant does not have a severe impairment or
combination of impairments significantly limiting him or her
from performing basic work activities. At step three, the
claimant's impairment is compared to those in the Listing
of Impairments. See 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
App. 1. If the impairment is listed in the Listing of
Impairments or if it is equivalent to a listed impairment,
disability is conclusively presumed. However, if the
claimant's impairment does not meet or equal a listed
impairment, the ALJ assesses the claimant's RFC to
determine, at step four, whether he can perform his past work
despite his impairments. If the claimant cannot perform past
relevant work, the analysis moves on to step five:
establishing whether the claimant, based on his age, work
experience, and RFC can perform other substantial gainful
work. The burden of proof is on the claimant for the first
four steps of this inquiry, but shifts to the Commissioner at
the fifth step. Pass v. Chater, 65 F.3d 1200, 1203
(4th Cir. 1995).