United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
D. Whitney, Chief United States District Judge
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff Walter Lee
Moore's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 11) filed
on September 19, 2016, and Defendant Acting Commission of
Social Security Nancy A. Berryhill's
(“Commissioner”) Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. No. 15) filed on December 16, 2016. Plaintiff, through
counsel, seeks judicial review of an unfavorable
administrative decision on his application for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental
Social Security Income (“SSI”).
reviewed and considered the written arguments, administrative
record, and applicable authority, and for the reasons set
forth below, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion for
Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 11), DENIES the Commissioner's
Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 15), and REMANDS the
filed an application for Title II and Title XVI disability
benefits on April 14, 2012, alleging disability (Tr. 211).
After his application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration (Tr. 124, 133, 143, 151), Plaintiff requested
a hearing (Tr. 161). The hearing commenced on September 18,
2014, and on December 29, 2014, the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) issued a decision denying Plaintiff's
application. (Tr. 13).
determined Plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr. 32). The ALJ
found that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since his alleged onset date and that he had severe
impairments of degenerative disc disease, arthritis, chronic
hepatitis C infection, migraine headaches, depression, and
polysubstance abuse (Tr. 18-19); however, those impairments
did not meet or medically equal a per se disabled medical
listing under 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1 (Tr.
22-24). The ALJ then found that Plaintiff had the Residual
Functional Capacity (“RFC”) to perform medium
work as defined in 20 CFR §§ 404.1567(c),
416.967(c) with the following limitations:
[Plaintiff] is restricted from any overhead lifting with his
left arm; and he is further limited to jobs performing the
simple, routine, repetitive tasks of unskilled work in an
environment requiring no interaction with the public.
(Tr. 24). Nevertheless, in response to a hypothetical that
factored in the above limitations, the vocational expert
(“VE”) testified that Plaintiff was capable of
performing his past relevant work (Tr. 30-21) and that
Plaintiff could perform other jobs in the national economy
(Tr. 31-32). Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff
was not disabled, as defined under the Social Security Act.
requested review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals
Council, and the Appeals Council denied the request for
review on March 17, 2016. (Tr. 1). Plaintiff has exhausted
all administrative remedies and now appeals pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). Plaintiff claims that
the ALJ's decision is not based on proper legal standards
and is not supported by substantial evidence.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
to the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and
§ 1383(c)(3), this Court's review of a final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security is limited
to: (1) whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal
standards, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006), and (2) whether
substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's
decision. Bird v. Astrue, 699 F.3d 337, 340 (4th
court may not re-weigh conflicting evidence or make
credibility determinations because "it is not within the
province of a reviewing court to determine the weight of the
evidence, nor is it the court's function to substitute
its judgment for that of the Secretary if his decision is
supported by substantial evidence." Hays v.
Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990).
Substantial evidence is "more than a scintilla and [it]
must do more than create a suspicion of the existence of a
fact to be established. It means such relevant evidence that
as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion." Smith v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1176,
1179 (4th Cir. 1986) (quoting Richardson v. Perales,
402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)).
is appropriate if the ALJ's analysis is extremely
deficient and “frustrate[s] meaningful review.”
Mascio v. Colvin, 780 F.3d 632, 636 (4th Cir. 2015).
Therefore, when a reviewing court is “left to guess
[at] how the ALJ arrived at his conclusions, ” remand
is necessary. Mascio, 780 F.3d at 636.