Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Kimble v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

July 23, 2019

MELVIN KIMBLE, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND RECOMMENDATION

          James E. Gates, United States Magistrate Judge.

         In this action, plaintiff Melvin Kimble ("plaintiff," "Kimble," or, in context, "claimant") challenges the final decision of defendant Commissioner of Social Security Andrew Saul ("Commissioner") denying his applications for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") on the grounds that he is not disabled.[1] The case is before the court on the parties' motions for judgment on the pleadings. D.E. 16, 18. Both filed memoranda in support of their respective motions (D.E. 17, 19), and plaintiff filed a response (D.E. 21) to the Commissioner's motion. The motions were referred to the undersigned magistrate judge for a memorandum and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). See D.E. 20; 16 Jan. 2019 Text Ord. For the reasons set forth below, it will be recommended that plaintiffs motion be allowed, the Commissioner's motion be denied, and this case be remanded for further administrative proceedings.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Case History

         Plaintiff filed an application for DIB and an application for SSI on 22 May 2014, alleging a disability onset date of 26 September 2012 in both. Transcript of Proceedings ("Tr.") 16. The applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration, and a request for a hearing was timely filed. Tr. 16; 174-75. On 17 January 2017, a hearing was held before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"), at which plaintiff, represented by counsel, and a vocational expert testified. Tr. 16; 32-72. The ALJ issued a decision denying plaintiffs claims on 26 June 2017. Tr. 16-26.

         Plaintiff timely requested review by the Appeals Council. Tr. 225. On 10 April 2018, the Appeals Council denied the request. Tr. 1. At that time, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481. On 8 June 2018, plaintiff commenced this proceeding for judicial review of the ALJ's decision, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) (DIB) and 1383(c)(3) (SSI). See Compl. (D.E. 1).

         B. Standards for Disability

         The Social Security Act ("Act") defines disability as the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); see Id. § 1382c(a)(3)(A); Pass v. Chater, 65 F.3d 1200, 1203 (4th Cir. 1995). "An individual shall be determined to be under a disability only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A); see Id. § 1382c(a)(3)(B). The Act defines a physical or mental impairment as "an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques." Id. §§ 423(d)(3), 1382c(a)(3)(D).

         The disability regulations under the Act ("Regulations") provide a five-step analysis that the ALJ must follow when determining whether a claimant is disabled:

To summarize, the ALJ asks at step one whether the claimant has been working; at step two, whether the claimant's medical impairments meet the [Regulations' severity and duration requirements; at step three, whether the medical impairments meet or equal an impairment listed in the [Regulations; at step four, whether the claimant can perform her past work given the limitations caused by her medical impairments; and at step five, whether the claimant can perform other work.
The first four steps create a series of hurdles for claimants to meet. If the ALJ finds that the claimant has been working (step one) or that the claimant's medical impairments do not meet the severity and duration requirements of the [Regulations (step two), the process ends with a finding of "not disabled." At step three, the ALJ either finds that the claimant is disabled because her impairments match a listed impairment [i.e., a listing in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1 ("the Listings")] or continues the analysis. The ALJ cannot deny benefits at this step.
If the first three steps do not lead to a conclusive determination, the ALJ then assesses the claimant's residual functional capacity ["RFC"], which is "the most" the claimant "can still do despite" physical and mental limitations that affect her ability to work. [20 C.F.R.] § 416.945(a)(1).[2] To make this assessment, the ALJ must "consider all of [the claimant's] medically determinable impairments of which [the ALJ is] aware," including those not labeled severe at step two. Id. § 416.945(a)(2).[3]
The ALJ then moves on to step four, where the ALJ can find the claimant not disabled because she is able to perform her past work. Or, if the exertion required for the claimant's past work exceeds her [RFC], the ALJ goes on to step five.
At step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the claimant can perform other work that "exists in significant numbers in the national economy," considering the claimant's [RFC], age, education, and work experience. Id. §§ 416.920(a)(4)(v); 416.960(c)(2); 416.1429.[4] The Commissioner typically offers this evidence through the testimony of a vocational expert responding to a hypothetical that incorporates the claimant's limitations. If the Commissioner meets her burden, the ALJ finds the claimant not disabled and denies the application for benefits.

Mascio v. Colvin, 780 F.3d 632, 634-35 (4th Cir. 2015) (some bracketing original).

         C. ALJ's Findings

         Plaintiff was 43 years old on the alleged disability onset date, and 47 years old on the date of the hearing and issuance of the ALJ's decision. See, e.g., 37. Plaintiff testified that he received a master's degree. Tr. 37. The ALJ found that he has past relevant work as a warehouse supervisor, computer programmer, counselor, and project manager. Tr. 26 ¶ 6.

         Applying the five-step analysis of 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4) and 416.920(a)(4), the ALJ found at step one that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged disability onset date. Tr. 19 ¶ 2. At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff had the following severe medically determinable impairments: degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis. Tr. 19 ¶ 3. At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals any of the Listings. Tr. 20-21 ¶ 4.

         The ALJ determined that plaintiff had the RFC to perform a limited range of "light work":

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds the claimant has the [RFC] to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), [5] except the claimant may stand for 30 minutes at a time, and he may walk for 30 minutes at a time; he may stand and walk for a total of 6 hours in an 8- hour day; the claimant may sit for 1 hour at a time, for a total of 8 hours in an 8-hour day; he must avoid concentrated exposure to hazards; the claimant may occasionally reach overhead bilaterally; he may frequently reach in all other directions bilaterally; the claimant may frequently balance; he may frequently climb stairs, and never climb ladders; and the claimant may lift and carry 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently.

Tr. 21 ¶ 5.

         Based on his determination of plaintiff s RFC, the ALJ found at step four that plaintiff was capable of performing his past relevant work as a counselor, programmer, project manager, and warehouse supervisor as generally performed. Tr. 25-26 ¶ 6. The ALJ therefore concluded that plaintiff was not disabled from the alleged disability onset date, 26 September 2012, through the date of his decision, 26 June 2017. Tr. 26 ¶ 7.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner is limited to considering whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record and whether the appropriate legal standards were applied. See Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390, 401 (1971); Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). Unless the court finds that the Commissioner's decision is not supported by substantial evidence or that the wrong legal standard was applied, the Commissioner's decision must be upheld. See Smith v. Schweiker, 795 F.2d 343, 345 (4th Cir. 1986); Blalock v. Richardson, 483 F.2d 773, 775 (4th Cir. 1972). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Perales, 402 U.S. at 401 (quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). It is more than a scintilla of evidence, but somewhat less than a preponderance. Id.

         The court may not substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner as long as the decision is supported by substantial evidence. Hunter v. Sullivan, 993 F.2d 31, 34 (4th Cir. 1992) (per curiam). In addition, the court may not make findings of fact, revisit inconsistent evidence, or make determinations of credibility. See Craig v. Chater,76 F.3d 585, 589 (4th Cir. 1996); King v. Califano,599 F.2d 597, 599 (4th Cir. 1979). A Commissioner's decision based on substantial ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.