United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
JAMES L. BAILEY, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
D. WHITNEY CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for
Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 13) and Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 15). Plaintiff, through counsel,
seeks judicial review of an unfavorable administrative
decision on her application for Supplemental Social Security
Income (“SSI”) and Disability Insurance Benefits
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, DENIES Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment, VACATES the Commissioner's decision and REMANDS
this matter pursuant to Sentence Four of 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) for proceedings consistent with this
August 13, 2013, Plaintiff James Bailey filed applications
for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits
under Title II of the Act and supplemental security income
under title XVI of the Act alleging disability since April
30, 2012. (Tr. 316, 323). These claims were denied initially
on February 25, 2014, and upon reconsideration on July 9,
2014. (Tr. 262, 266). Thereafter, the claimant filed a
request for hearing on September 11, 2015. (Tr. 254). The
hearing commenced on October 20, 2016. Administrative Law
Judge Clinton C. Hicks (“ALJ”) conducted the
hearing in Charlotte, N.C. (Tr. 158). The ALJ denied
Bailey's applications in a written decision dated
February 22, 2017. (Tr. 118).
determined Plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr. 132). The ALJ
found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since his alleged onset date and that he had severe
impairments of cervical and lumbar spine degenerative disc
disease, facet arthritis, neuropathy, asthma, bipolar
disorder with depression and anxiety with panic attacks. (Tr.
123). The ALJ determined that these 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. 124). The ALJ then
found Plaintiff had the Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”) to perform:
light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.156(b) and 416.067(b)
except he is limited to no climbing of ladders, roofs, or
scaffolds; occasional climbing of ramps and stairs; the
option to sit/stand with the ability to change positions
twice per hour; no concentrated exposure to extreme heat,
cold, or humidity and no concentrated exposures to dust,
odors, gases, and pulmonary irritants. Additionally,
[Plaintiff] is limited to unskilled work in a low stress
environment, which is defined as no constant change in
routine, no crisis situations, no complex decision-making,
and no production rate work; simple routine and repetitive
tasks; occasional interaction with the public and the ability
to stay on tasks for two hours at a time throughout the
response to a hypothetical that factored in the above
limitations, a vocational expert (“VE”)
identified various jobs Plaintiff could perform that were
available in significant numbers in the economy. (Tr.
187-88). Based on this RFC and the vocational expert's
testimony, the ALJ found Plaintiff could work as electronics
worker (DOT 726.687-010), laundry folder (DOT 369.687-018),
and inspector/hand packager (DOT 559.687-074). Accordingly,
the ALJ concluded Plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr. 132).
requested a review of this hearing decision and on October 2,
2017, this request was denied by the Appeals Council. (Tr.
118). Therefore, the ALJ's decision dated February 22,
2017, became the final decision of the Acting Commissioner.
(Tr. 1). Having exhausted his administrative remedies,
Plaintiff commenced this action under 42 U.S.C.
§§405(g) and 1383(c)(3), seeking judicial review of
Standard of Review
Review of a Social Security Appeal
reviewing a Social Security disability determination, a
reviewing court must “uphold the determination when an
ALJ has applied correct legal standards and the ALJ's
factual findings are supported by substantial
evidence.” Bird v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.
Admin., 699 F.3d 337, 340 (4th Cir. 2012). Substantial
evidence is that which “a reasonable mind might accept
as adequate to support a conclusion.” Johnson v.
Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650, 653 (4th Cir. 2005) (per curiam)
(internal quotation marks omitted). It “consists of
more than a mere scintilla of evidence but may be less than a
preponderance.” Hancock v. Astrue, 667 F.3d
470, 472 (4th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted).
In reviewing the record for substantial evidence, the Court
does “not undertake to reweigh conflicting evidence,
make credibility determinations, or substitute our judgment
for that of the ALJ. Where conflicting evidence allows
reasonable minds to differ as to whether a claimant is
disabled, the responsibility for that decision falls on the
ALJ.” Id. (brackets, citation, and internal
quotation marks omitted).
considering an application for disability benefits, an ALJ
uses a five-step sequential process to evaluate the
disability claim. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4),
416.920(a)(4). Pursuant to this five-step process, the
Commissioner asks, in sequence, whether the claimant: (1)
worked during the alleged period of disability; (2) had a
severe impairment; (3) had an impairment that met or equaled
the severity of a listed impairment; (4) could return to his
past relevant work; and (5) if not, could perform any other
work in the national economy. Id.; see also
Lewis v. Berryhill, 858 F.3d 858, 861 (4th Cir. 2017)
(citing Mascio v. Colvin, 780 F.3d 632, 634 (4th
Cir. 2015)); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4),
416.920(a)(4)). The ...