United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
DERRICK W. BLUE, Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security,  Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED
STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Patrick Auld United States Magistrate Judge.
Derrick W. Blue, 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”). (Docket Entry 1.)
Defendant has filed the certified administrative record
(Docket Entry 5 (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)). For the reasons that
follow, the Court should enter judgment for Defendant.
initially applied for DIB on March 10, 2011, and, after
denials initially and on reconsideration, Plaintiff did not
pursue that application further. (See Tr. 107.) Plaintiff
filed a second application for DIB on December 12, 2011, and,
after denials at the initial and reconsideration stages of
review (see id.), an ALJ issued a decision on
February 21, 2014, finding Plaintiff “not
disabled” under the Act (Tr. 79-95).
February 4, 2015, Plaintiff filed the instant application for
DIB, alleging a disability onset date of May 21, 2010. (Tr.
234-35.) Upon denial of that application initially (Tr.
106-16, 134-37) and on reconsideration (Tr. 117-28, 139-46),
Plaintiff requested a hearing de novo before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) (Tr.
147-48). Plaintiff, his attorney, and a vocational
expert (“VE”) attended the hearing. (Tr. 46-78.)
The ALJ subsequently ruled that Plaintiff did not qualify as
disabled under the Act. (Tr. 5-17). The Appeals Council
thereafter denied Plaintiff's request for review (Tr.
1-4, 38-40), thereby making the ALJ's ruling the
Commissioner's final decision for purposes of judicial
rendering that decision, the ALJ made the following findings:
1. [Plaintiff] last met the insured status requirements of
the . . . Act on December 31, 2014.
2. [Plaintiff] did not engage in substantial gainful activity
during the period from his amended alleged onset date of
February 22, 2014 through his date last insured of December
3. Through the date last insured, [Plaintiff] had the
following severe impairment: ischemic heart disease.
4. Through the date last insured, [Plaintiff] did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
5. . . . [T]hrough the date last insured, [Plaintiff] had the
residual functional capacity to perform light work . . .
except he can lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10
pounds frequently. [Plaintiff] can sit, stand, and walk six
hours in an eight-hour workday. He can push and pull as much
as he can lift and carry. [Plaintiff] can never climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. He can occasionally balance,
stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. [Plaintiff] can never have
exposure to unprotected heights, occasional exposure to
moving mechanical parts, occasional exposure to vibration,
and moderate exposure to noise.
6. Through the date last insured, [Plaintiff] was unable to
perform any past relevant work.
10. Through the date last insured, considering
[Plaintiff's] age, education, work experience, and
residual functional capacity, there were jobs that existed in
significant No. in the national economy that [Plaintiff]
could have performed.
11. [Plaintiff] was not under a disability, as defined in the
. . . Act, at any time from February 22, 2014, the amended
alleged onset date, through December 31, 2014, the date last
(Tr. 10-17 (internal parenthetical citations omitted).)
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 . . . 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, “a reviewing court must uphold the
factual findings of the ALJ [underlying the denial of
benefits] 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).
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 brackets and
quotation marks omitted). “If there is evidence to
justify a refusal to direct a verdict ...