United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED
STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
PATRICK AULD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Ellis Ingram, brought this action pursuant to the Social
Security Act (the “Act”) to obtain judicial
review of a final decision of Defendant, the Acting
Commissioner of Social Security, denying Plaintiff's
claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”)
and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). (Docket
Entry 2.) Defendant has filed the certified administrative
record (Docket Entry 8 (cited herein as
“Tr.__”)), and both parties have moved for
judgment (Docket Entries 11, 13; see also Docket
Entry 12 (Plaintiff's Brief), Docket Entry 14
reasons that follow, the Court should remand this matter for
further administrative proceedings.
applied for DIB and SSI, alleging an onset date of January 1,
2007. (Tr. 239-60.) Upon denial of those applications
initially (Tr. 121-34, 159-67) and on reconsideration (Tr.
135-53, 174-83), Plaintiff requested a hearing de novo before
an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) (Tr.
184-89). Plaintiff, his attorney, and a vocational
expert (“VE”) attended the hearing. (Tr. 97-120.)
The ALJ subsequently ruled that Plaintiff did not qualify as
disabled under the Act. (Tr. 38-52; Docket Entry 14-1 at
The Appeals Council thereafter denied Plaintiff's request
for review (Tr. 1-6, 34-35, 344-36, 348-50), making the
ALJ's ruling the Commissioner's final decision for
purposes of judicial review.
rendering that disability determination, the ALJ made the
following findings later adopted by the Commissioner:
1. [Plaintiff] meets the insured status requirements of the
 Act through March 31, 2011.
2. [Plaintiff] has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since June 1, 2009, the alleged onset date.
3. [Plaintiff] has the following severe impairments: chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), obesity, residuals of a
right femur fracture, osteoarthritis of the knees, lumbar
degenerative disc disease, and depression not otherwise
4. [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,
5. . . . [Plaintiff] has the residual functional capacity to
perform less than the full range of unskilled medium work . .
[Plaintiff] can stand and walk for 6 hours in an 8-hour
workday, he can sit for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday, and he
can lift and carry, and push and pull 50 pounds occasionally
and 25 pounds frequently. He can frequently climb ramps and
stairs and ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. [Plaintiff] must
avoid concentrated exposure to respiratory irritants
including fumes, odors, gases, du[st], and areas with poor
ventilation. He can frequently balance, kneel, crouch, and
crawl. He has no limitations in his abilities to stoop.
[Plaintiff] has no manipulative, visual, or communicative
Mentally, [Plaintiff] is limited to simple, routine, and
repetitive tasks, with frequent, but not continuous,
interaction with supervisors, co-workers, and the public.
6. [Plaintiff] is capable of performing his past relevant
work as a janitor, dishwasher, and creeler. This work does
not require the performance of work-related activities
precluded by [Plaintiff's] residual functional capacity.
In the alternative, considering [Plaintiff's] age,
education, work experience, and residual functional capacity,
there are other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the
national economy that [Plaintiff] can perform.
7. [Plaintiff] has not been under a disability, as defined in
the  Act, from June 1, 2009, through the date of this
(Tr. 43-52; Docket Entry 14-1 at 13 (bold font and internal
parenthetical citations omitted).)
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 extremely limited.”
Frady v. Harris, 646 F.2d 143, 144 (4th Cir. 1981).
Even given those limitations, the Court should remand this
case for further administrative proceedings.
Standard of Review
are not to try [a Social Security] case de novo.”
Oppenheim v. Finch, 495 F.2d 396, 397 (4th Cir.
1974). Instead, the Court “must uphold the factual
findings of the ALJ if they are supported by substantial
evidence and were reached through application of the correct
legal standard.” Hines, 453 F.3d at 561
(internal brackets and quotation marks omitted).
“Substantial evidence means ‘such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.'” Hunter v.
Sullivan, 993 F.2d 31, 34 (4th Cir. 1992) (quoting
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971)).
“It consists of more than a mere scintilla of evidence
but may be somewhat less than a preponderance.”
Mastro v. Apfel, 270 F.3d 171, 176 (4th Cir. 2001)
(internal citations and quotation marks omitted). “If
there is evidence to justify a refusal to direct a verdict
were the case before a jury, then there is substantial
evidence.” Hunter, 993 F.2d at 34 (internal
quotation marks omitted).
reviewing for substantial evidence, the [C]ourt should not
undertake to re-weigh conflicting evidence, make credibility
determinations, or substitute its judgment for that of the
[ALJ, as adopted by the Commissioner].”
Mastro, 270 F.3d at 176 (internal brackets and
quotation marks omitted). “Where conflicting evidence
allows reasonable minds to differ as to whether a claimant is
disabled, the responsibility for that decision falls on the
[Commissioner] (or the ALJ).” Id. at 179
(internal quotation marks omitted). “The issue before
[the Court], therefore, is not whether [the claimant] is
disabled, but whether the ALJ's finding that [the