United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED
STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Patrick Auld United States Magistrate Judge.
Joe Donathan, 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 1.) 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 Memorandum),
Docket Entry 14 (Defendant's Memorandum)). For the
reasons that follow, the Court should remand this matter for
further administrative proceedings.
applied for DIB and SSI, alleging an onset date of July 1,
2011. (Tr. 188-202.) Upon denial of those applications
initially (Tr. 60-87, 118-23) and on reconsideration (Tr.
88-117, 124-27, 130-34), Plaintiff requested a hearing de
novo before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
(Tr. 137-38). Plaintiff, who proceeded through counsel,
Plaintiff's daughter, and a vocational expert
(“VE”) testified at the hearing. (Tr. 27-59.) The
ALJ subsequently ruled that Plaintiff did not qualify as
disabled under the Act. (Tr. 8-21.) The Appeals Council
thereafter denied Plaintiff's request for review (Tr.
1-5, 186-87, 296-97), making the ALJ's ruling the
Commissioner's final decision for purposes of judicial
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 December 31, 2016.
2. [Plaintiff] has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since July 1, 2011, the alleged onset date.
3. [Plaintiff] has the following severe impairments:
degenerative disc disease; major depressive disorder,
recurrent, moderate to severe; generalized anxiety disorder;
and borderline intellectual functioning.
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 light work . . . with exceptions: He can walk for two
hours. He requires the use of an assistive device. He can
occasionally reach overhead, bilaterally. He can occasionally
climb ramps and stairs. He can never climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds. He can occasionally balance. He can occasionally
stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl. He is limited to hearing and
understanding simple, oral instructions and to communicating
simple information. He can avoid ordinary hazards in the work
place, such as boxes on the floor, doors ajar, etc. He is
limited to occasional exposure to unprotected heights and
moving mechanical parts. He can occasionally operate a motor
vehicle. He is limited to performing simple, routine and
repetitive tasks. He cannot perform work at a production rate
pace. He can make simple, work-related decisions. He can
occasionally respond appropriately to coworkers and the
6. [Plaintiff] is unable to perform any past relevant work.
10. Considering [Plaintiff's] age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant No. in the national economy that
[he] can perform.
11. [Plaintiff] has not been under a disability, as defined
in the  Act, from July 1, 2011, through the date of this
(Tr. 13-20 (bold font and internal parenthetical citations
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