United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
LATASHA R. MIMS, Plaintiff,
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security Defendant.
Cogburn Jr., United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff Latasha R.
Mims’ Motion for Summary Judgment (#11) filed November
12, 2018, and Defendant Commissioner’s Motion for
Summary Judgment (#15) filed February 7, 2019. Plaintiff,
through counsel, seeks judicial review of an unfavorable
administrative review decision on her application for
disability insurance benefits. For the reasons set forth
below, Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment is
GRANTED, Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment is
DENIED, and this matter is REVERSED and REMANDED for further
proceedings consistent with this order.
filed an application for disability insurance benefits on
November 28, 2014. (Tr. 15). Plaintiff alleges disability
beginning May 13, 2013. (Tr. 15). The application was denied
initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 86, 91). Plaintiff
requested a hearing on April 29, 2015. (Tr. 95). After the
hearing on June 8, 2017, (Tr. 15), the Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) issued an unfavorable decision for
Plaintiff. (Tr. 24). Following the ALJ’s denial of
benefits, Plaintiff requested a review of the hearing, which
was subsequently denied by the Appeals Council on May 7,
2018. (Tr. 5).
first found at step one that Plaintiff had no substantial
gainful activity since May 13, 2013, and had met the insured
status requirement through December 31, 2018. (Tr. 17). At
step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: a history of breast cancer with a double
mastectomy, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine,
and hypertension. (Tr. 17). At step three, the ALJ determined
that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or a combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the level of
severity of one of the impairments found in 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, App. 1. (Tr. 18). The ALJ further stated that
“[t]he claimant’s condition does not meet the
requirements of Listing 1.04 (disorders of the spine) because
the claimant does not have evidence of nerve root
compression, or spinal arachnoiditis, or lumber spine
stenosis resulting in pseudoclaudication.” (Tr. 18).
four, regarding Plaintiff’s residual functional
capacity (“RFC”), the ALJ wrote:
After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work (lift or carry 20
pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, stand or walk
for six hours out of an eight-hour workday with normal breaks
and sit for six hours out of an eight-hour workday with
normal breaks) as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except she
would be limited to only frequent climbing, stooping,
kneeling, and crawling. She could occasionally crouch. The
claimant would be linked to frequent overhead reaching with
the left upper extremity and occasional reaching with the
right upper extremity. The claimant could only occasionally
handle [sic?] and finger bilaterally.
as step five, the vocational expert (“VE”), in
response to a hypothetical posed by the ALJ, testified that
Plaintiff was unable to perform any of her past work as a
data entry clerk. (Tr. 22, 57). However, the VE went on to
testify that Plaintiff could perform other jobs that are
readily available in the national economy, such as
“Baker Conveyor Worker, ” a light occupation of
which there are approximately 23, 000 jobs nationally,
“Bus Monitor, ” a light occupation of which there
are approximately 17, 000 jobs nationally, or “Usher,
” a light occupation of which there are approximately
23, 000 jobs nationally. (Tr. 23–24). From the
information above, the ALJ concluded that a finding of not
disabled was appropriate. (Tr. 24).
has exhausted all administrative remedies and now appeals the
ALJ’s decision. Plaintiff argues: (1) the ALJ did not
properly consider her anemia, chemotherapy-induced peripheral
neuropathy, sacroiliac arthritis, and spinal annular tear;
(2) the ALJ did not properly connect the evidence to any of
the adverse credibility findings and disregarded favorable
evidence; and (3) the ALJ did not show alternative work
exists in significant numbers in multiple regions of the
country, or in the region in which Plaintiff resides. (Pl.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
405(g) of Title 42 of the U.S. Code permits judicial review
of the Social Security Commissioner’s denial of social
security benefits. The district court’s primary
function when reviewing a denial of benefits is to determine
whether the ALJ’s decision was supported by substantial
evidence. See Coffman v. Bowen, 829 F.2d 514, 517
(4th Cir. 1987) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Knox v.
Finch, 427 F.2d 919, 920 (5th Cir. 1970)). A factual
finding by the ALJ is only binding if the finding was reached
by a proper standard or application of the law. See
Coffman, 829 F.2d at 517 (citing Myers v.
Califano, 611 F.2d 980, 982 (4th Cir. 1980);
Williams v. Ribbicoff, 323 F.2d 231, 232 (5th Cir.
1963); Tyler v. Weinberger, 409 F.Supp. 776, 785
(E.D. Va. 1976)).
evidence “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)
(quoting Smith v. Chater, 99 F.3d 635, 638 (4th Cir.
1996)). Put plainly, substantial evidence is “such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting
Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229
(1938)). However, it has been determined that “[i]n
reviewing for substantial evidence, we do not undertake to
re-weigh conflicting evidence, make credibility
determinations, or substitute our judgement for that of the
Secretary.” Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589
(4th Cir. 1996) (citing Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d
1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990)). Rather, “[w]here
conflicting evidence allows reasonable minds to differ as to
whether a claimant is disabled, the responsibility for that
decision falls on the Secretary (or the Secretary’s
designate, the ALJ).” Craig, 76 F.3d at 589
(quoting Walker v. Bowen, 834 F.2d 635, 640 (7th
considering an application for disability benefits, ALJs use
a five-step process to evaluate the merits of the disability
claim. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4).
At step one, the ALJ asks whether the claimant has been
working. At step two, the ALJ determines whether the
claimant’s medical impairments meet the severity and
duration requirements. At step three, the ALJ determines
whether the medical impairments meet or equal an impairment
listed in the regulations. At step four, the ALJ determines
whether the claimant can perform any past work with the
limitations caused by the medical impairments. At step ...