United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
D AWN M. TAYLOR, Plaintiff,
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner, Social Security Administration,  Defendant.
KENNETH D. BELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff Dawn M.
Taylor's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 13) and
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 17), as
well as the parties' briefs and exhibits. Plaintiff,
through counsel, seeks judicial review of an unfavorable
administrative decision on her application for a period of
disability and disability insurance benefits.
reviewed and considered the written arguments, administrative
record, and applicable authority, and for the reasons set
forth below, the Court finds that Defendant's decision to
deny Plaintiff's Social Security benefits requires a
remand to gather additional evidence and further explain the
evidence in support of the ALJ's conclusion that the
claimant did not establish a period of disability or
entitlement to disability insurance benefits. Accordingly,
the Court will GRANT Plaintiff's Motion
for Summary Judgment, DENY Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgement, REVERSE the
Commissioner's decision, and REMAND this
matter for further proceedings consistent with this Order.
filed a Title II application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits on July 10, 2014, alleging
disability beginning August 14, 2013. Her claim was denied at
the initial level on January 28, 2015 and upon
reconsideration on April 6, 2015. (Tr. 59, 77). She had a
hearing before ALJ Susan Poulos (the “ALJ”) who
denied the application in a decision on June 19, 2017. (Tr.
80-97). Taylor then filed for a review of the ALJ's
decision with the Appeals Council, which denied review on May
18, 2018. (Tr. 104). The ALJ's decision stands as the
final decision of the Commissioner, and Taylor has now
requested judicial review in this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
reasons stated below, the Court remands the decision of the
Commissioner for further proceedings.
THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION
used the required five-step sequential evaluation process
established by the Social Security Administration to
determine if Taylor had a “disability” under the
law during the relevant period. The Fourth Circuit has described
the five-steps as follows:
[The ALJ] asks whether the claimant: (1) worked during the
purported period of disability; (2) has an impairment that is
appropriately severe and meets the duration requirement; (3)
has an impairment that meets or equals the requirements of a
listed impairment and meets the duration requirement; (4) can
return to her past relevant work; and (5) if not, can perform
any other work in the national economy.
Radford v. Colvin, 734 F.3d 288, 290-91 (4th Cir.
2013) (paraphrasing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4),
416.920(a)(4)). The claimant has the burden of production and
proof in the first four steps. Pearson v. Colvin,
810 F.3d 204, 207 (4th Cir. 2015). However, at the fifth
step, the Commissioner must prove that the claimant is able
to perform other work in the national economy despite her
limitations. See id.; see also 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.960(c)(2) (explaining that the Commissioner has
the burden to prove at the fifth step “that other work
exists in significant numbers in the national economy that
[the claimant] can do”).
found at step one of the sequential evaluation that Plaintiff
had not engaged in SGA during the period from August 14, 2013
through the date of her decision. (Tr. 16). At step two, the
ALJ determined that Plaintiff had two severe, medically
determinable impairments, specifically “fibromyalgia
and osteoarthritis.” (Tr. 85). With respect to
fibromyalgia, the ALJ wrote:
The undersigned has reviewed the claimant's fibromyalgia
in accordance with SSR 12-2p. After carefully reviewing the
treatment notes, the undersigned finds that this is a severe
medically determinable impairment. Dr. Lapp described
clinical findings which meet the American College of
Rheumatology criteria for fibromyalgia. The claimant has a
history of widespread pain. Her examinations showed that she
had at least 11 positive tender points on both sides of the
body and above and below the waist.
then found at step three that Plaintiff did not have any
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the conditions in
the Listing of Impairments at 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P,
App. 1 (Tr. 88). In so concluding, the ALJ specifically found
that Taylor's impairments did not meet the requirements
of Listing 1.02 (involving disorders of muscles and
ligaments) or 14.06 (involving undifferentiated and mixed
connective tissue disease).
step three, the ALJ determined Taylor's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) and discussed why she
came to that conclusion. (Tr. 89-96). The ALJ found that
Taylor had the RFC to perform light work, as defined in 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b), as follows:
After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work (lift and carry 20
pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, as defined in
20 CFR 404.1567(b)), except that she can only occasionally
climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds. She can frequently climb
ramps and stairs. She can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch
and crawl. She should have a sit/stand option with the
ability to alternate between the two positions approximately
twice per hour without losing productivity.
then found at step four that Taylor is unable to perform her
past relevant work as a rural mail carrier or mail carrier
supervisor. (Tr. 96). Finally, at step five, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff - given her age (49 at the alleged date of
disability onset), high school education, work experience and
RFC - could perform jobs that existed in significant numbers
in the national economy, such as a “marker, ”
“information clerk, ” and “toll
collector.” (Tr. 97). Accordingly, the ALJ concluded
that Taylor “has not been under a disability, as
defined in the Social Security Act, at any time from August
14, 2013, the alleged onset date, through [June 19, 2017, the
date of the ALJ's decision].” (Tr. 97).