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Tucker v. Saul

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

August 6, 2019

RUTH ISOM TUCKER, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          L. PATRICK AULD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, Ruth Isom Tucker, brought this action pursuant to the Social Security Act (the “Act”) to obtain judicial review of a final decision of Defendant, the Commissioner of Social Security, denying Plaintiff's claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). (Docket Entry 2.) Defendant has filed the certified administrative record (Docket Entry 8 (cited herein as “Tr.__ ”)), and both parties have moved for judgment (Docket Entries 10, 12; see also Docket Entry 11 (Plaintiff's Memorandum); Docket Entry 13 (Defendant's Memorandum); Docket Entry 14 (Plaintiff's Reply)). For the reasons that follow, the Court should remand this matter for further administrative proceedings.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI, alleging a disability onset date of June 1, 2012. (Tr. 214-19, 220-27.) Upon denial of those applications initially (Tr. 63-94, 129-39) and on reconsideration (Tr. 95-126, 143-60), Plaintiff requested a hearing de novo before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) (Tr. 161-63). Plaintiff, her attorney, and a vocational expert (“VE”) attended the hearing. (Tr. 33-62.) The ALJ subsequently ruled that Plaintiff did not qualify as disabled under the Act. (Tr. 7-23.) The Appeals Council thereafter denied Plaintiff's request for review (Tr. 1-6, 211-13), thereby making the ALJ's ruling the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of judicial review.

         In rendering that disability determination, the ALJ made the following findings later adopted by the Commissioner:

1. [Plaintiff] met the insured status requirements of the [] Act through December 31, 2017.
2. [Plaintiff] has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 1, 2012, the alleged onset date.
3. [Plaintiff] has the following severe impairments: aortic occlusion status post bypass, degenerative disk disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and depressive disorder.
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, Appendix 1.
5. . . . [Plaintiff] has the residual functional capacity to perform medium work . . . except the claimant would be limited to sitting, standing, and walking each for six hours out of an eight-hour workday, but for no more than one hour at [a] time for sitting, standing, or walking; frequent balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling; frequent climbing ramps and stairs; occasional climbing ladders, ropes, poles, and scaffolds; avoiding concentrated exposure to fumes, dusts, gases, and pulmonary irritants; avoiding concentrated exposure to hazards such as unprotected heights and moving machine parts; and concentrating on task for two hours at a time before changing tasks or being redirected.
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 [Plaintiff] can perform.
11. [Plaintiff] has not been under a disability, as defined in the [] Act, from June 1, 2012, through the date of this decision.

(Tr. 12-22 (bold font and internal parenthetical citations omitted).)

         II. DISCUSSION

         Federal 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). ...


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