United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED
STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
WEBSTER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Terry Wayne Thompson, seeks review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security denying his claims for
disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and
supplemental security income ("SSI"). The Court has
before it the certified administrative record and cross-motions
filed applications for DIB and SSI on August 22, 2013,
alleging a disability onset date of August 31, 2012. (Tr.
100-01, 200-12.) The applications were denied initially and
again upon reconsideration. (Id. at 132-36, 142-49.)
A hearing was then held before an Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ") at which Plaintiff, his attorney, and a
vocational expert ("VE") were present.
(Id. at 37-69.) On April 13, 2016 the ALJ determined
that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act. (Id.
at 18-29.) On March 30, 2017, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiffs request for review, making the ALJ's
determination the Commissioner's final decision for
purposes of review. (Id. at 1-6.)
STANDARD FOR REVIEW
scope of judicial review of the Commissioner's final
decision is specific and narrow. Smith v. Schmiker,
795 F.2d 343, 345 (4th Cir. 1986). Review is Limited to
determining if there is substantial evidence in the record to
support the Commissioner's decision. 42 U.S.C. §
405(g); Hunter v. Sullivan, 993 F.2d 31, 34 (4th
Cir. 1992); Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456
(4th Cir. 1990). "[T]n reviewing for substantial
evidence, [the Court] do[es] not re-weigh conflicting
evidence, make credibility determinations, or substitute
[its] judgment for that of the [Commissioner]."
Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589 (4th Cir. 1996).
The issue before the Court, therefore, is not whether
Plaintiff is disabled but whether the Commissioner's
finding that he is not disabled is supported by substantial
evidence and was reached based upon a correct application of
the relevant law. Id.
THE ALJ'S DECISION
followed the well-established sequential analysis to
ascertain whether the claimant is disabled, which is set
forth in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 and 416.920. See
Albright v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 174 F.3d
473, 475 n.2 (4th Cir. 1999). Here, the ALJ first determined
that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since his alleged onset date of August 31, 2012.
(Tr. 20.) The ALJ next found that Plaintiff suffered from the
following severe impairments: depression, obesity,
arthropathies, degenerative disc disease, and diabetes.
(Id. at 20-21.) At step three, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled one listed in
Appendix 1. (Id. at 21-23.)
to step four, the ALJ determined Plaintiffs residual
functional capacity ("RFC"). (Id. at
23-27.) Based on the evidence as a whole, the ALJ determined
that Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform light work
except the claimant is limited to doing simple routine
tasks/instructions, but not at a production rate (such as
assembly line work), to making simple work-related decisions,
and to sustaining concentration/pace for two-hour segments
throughout the duration of a standard eight-hour workday. The
undersigned also determines the claimant is unable to climb
ladders/scaffolds/ropes and frequently able to climb
ramps/stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl. The
undersigned further concludes the claimant is occasionally
able to reach overhead bilaterally.
(Id. at 23.) At the fourth step, the ALJ determined
that Plaintiff was not capable of performing past relevant
work. (Id. at 27.) Finally, at step five, the ALJ
found there were other jobs that existed in significant
numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform
such as counter clerk, page, or usher. (Id. at
28-29.) Consequently, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was
not disabled from the alleged onset date through the decision
date. (Id. at 29.)
ISSUES AND ANALYSIS
first argues that the ALJ erred by failing to "analyze
the opinion of [certified physician assistant Theresa
Williamson] at all. . . ." (Docket Entry 12 at
4-9.) The Court agrees and recommends remand
because it cannot tell why the ALJ dismissed evidence that
may contradict Plaintiffs RFC, or whether he considered that
evidence at all.
The ALJ's Treatment of PAC Williamson's Opinion
is Not ...