United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM & RECOMMENDATION
T. Numbers, II, United States Magistrate Judge
Patricia Ann Langevin instituted this action on June 10,
2016, to challenge the denial of her application for social
security income. Langevin claims that Administrative Law
Judge ("ALJ") Edward T. Morriss erred in (1)
failing to properly consider the side effects of her
medications, (2) failing to afford appropriate weight to the
opinions of her treating physician, and (3) failing to
account for her non-exertional limitations in formulating the
residual functional capacity ("RFC") determination.
Both Langevin and Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, the Acting
Commissioner of Social Security, have filed motions seeking a
judgment on the pleadings in their favor. D.E. 28, 30.
reviewing the parties' arguments, the court has
determined that ALJ Morriss erred in his determination.
Despite the earlier remand order, the decision fails to
account for the side effects from Langevin's medication
in the RFC determination. Moreover, his reasons for
discounting the treating physician's opinions are not
supported by the evidence. Finally, the RFC determination
fails to account for Langevin's moderate limitations in
concentration, persistence, or pace. Accordingly, the
undersigned magistrate judge recommends that the court grant
Langevin's motion for judgment on the pleadings (D.E.
28), deny Berryhill's motion for judgment on the
pleadings (D.E. 30), and remand the action to the
Commissioner for an award of benefits., 
January 22, 2010, Langevin protectively filed applications
for disability benefits and supplemental security income. In
both applications, Langevin alleged a disability that began
on May 15, 2009. After her claim was denied at the initial
level and upon reconsideration, Langevin appeared for a
hearing on October 18, 2011, to determine whether she was
entitled to benefits. Her claims were denied on October 28,
2011. Tr. at 14-30.
subsequently sought review, first with the Appeals Council
and thereafter with in this court. In September 2014, this
court remanded Langevin's claim to the Commissioner for
further consideration. See D.E. 29, Langevin v.
Colvin, Case No. 7:13-cv-00065-BO (E.D. N.C. Sept. 4,
2014). Those claims were consolidated with Langevin's
then-pending applications for disability benefits and
supplemental security income filed in February 2013.
remand, Langevin appeared before ALJ Morriss for a hearing to
determine whether she was entitled to benefits. ALJ Morriss
determined she was not entitled to benefits because she was
not disabled. Tr. at 346-365.
Morriss found that Langevin had the following severe
impairments: bipolar disorder, anxiety, and post-traumatic
stress disorder ("PTSD") by history. Tr. at 349.
ALJ Morriss found that Langevin's impairments, either
alone or in combination, did not meet or equal a Listing
impairment. Tr. at 350. ALJ Morriss then determined that
Langevin had the RFC to perform a full range of work at all
exertional levels with additional, nonexertional limitations.
Tr. at 352. Langevin is limited to understanding,
remembering, and carrying out simple instructions.
Id. She is unable to work in a job that requires
ongoing public interaction. Id.
Morriss concluded that Langevin was unable to perform her
past work as an appointment setter, sales clerk, convenience
store cashier, or retail cashier. Tr. at 363. ALJ Morriss
found, however, that considering her age, education, work
experience, and RFC, there were jobs that existed in
significant numbers in the national economy that Langevin was
capable of performing. Tr. at 364. These include: laundry
worker, polisher, and hospital cleaner. Id. Thus,
ALJ Morriss found that Langevin was not disabled. Tr. at 365.
unsuccessfully seeking review by the Appeals Council,
Langevin commenced this action on June 10, 2016. D.E. 1. 3
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 is supported by such evidence, it
must be affirmed. Smith v. Chater, 99 F.3d 635, 638
(4th Cir. 1996).
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).
has a history of bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder,
anxiety, and PTSD stemming back to her childhood. Following a
suicide attempt at age 13, she had been able to manage her
mental health symptoms. Tr. at 265, 279-80. However, in
January 2010, New Hanover Regional Medical Center admitted
Langevin to its Psychiatric Unit after she attempted suicide
again. Tr. at 261-62. She was discharged after four
days. Tr. at 263. Langevin sought mental health treatment at
Coastal Horizons, which noted her symptoms included loss of
interest in all activities, feelings of worthlessness,
indecisiveness, depression, sleep difficulties, fatigue, and
irritability. Tr. at 273.
Daniel Zinicola of Rocky Point Medical Center has been
Langevin's primary care physician for many years. Tr. at
His treatment notes reflect that Langevin suffered from
bipolar disorder, anxiety, panic attacks, headaches, obesity,
dizziness, and agoraphobia. Tr. at 286, 322-24. He
issued a medical source statement in June 2011 noting
Langevin's multiple medications caused side effects that
limited her functioning. Tr. at 285-86. He opined that she
could not drive or engage in long-term reading and that she
was limited to standing ...