United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division
KENNETH D. BELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion
for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 13) and Defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 15), as well as the
parties' briefs and exhibits. Plaintiff, through counsel,
seeks judicial review of an unfavorable administrative
decision on his application for Title XVI Supplemental Social
Security Income (“SSI”).
carefully 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 El's Social Security benefits is not
supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ failed to
resolve apparent conflicts between the vocational
expert's (VE) testimony and the Dictionary of
Occupational Titles (DOT). Accordingly, the Court will
GRANT Plaintiff's Motion for Summary
Judgment; DENY Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment; and REVERSE AND REMAND
this matter for further proceedings consistent with this
applied for Title XVI Supplemental Security Income Benefits
on June 16, 2014 (Tr. 204-210). His application was denied at the
initial and reconsideration levels. (Tr. 16, 125-28, 134-43).
After conducting a hearing on July 19, 2017, Administrative
Law Judge Michelle D. Cavadi (“ALJ”) denied his
application in a decision dated August 30, 2017. (Tr. 16-28).
El then filed for a review of the ALJ's decision with the
Appeals Council, which denied review on June 19, 2018. (Tr.
1-7). The ALJ's decision now stands as the final decision
of the Commissioner, and El has requested judicial review in
THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION
used the required five-step sequential evaluation process
established by the Social Security Administration to
determine if El had been disabled since the date his
application was filed. At step one, the ALJ found that El had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 14, 2014.
(Tr. 18, Finding 1). At step two, the ALJ found that El had
the following severe impairments: rheumatoid arthritis,
status post surgery to left hip with rod replacement and mild
degenerative joint disease, right shoulder arthralgia,
anxiety, obesity, cervical degenerative joint disease with
disc bulge and no herniation, status post bone removal in
left hallucal interphalangeal joint, status post planning of
the sesamoid bone, and asthma. (Tr. 18, Finding 2). The ALJ
considered El's impairments under listings 20 CFR Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.920(d), 416.925 and
416.926) at step three and found that they did not meet or
medically equal any listing. (Tr. 18, Finding 3).
four, the ALJ found that El has the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work as defined
in 20 CFR 416.967(b) with the following exceptions:
He can occasionally climb ramps and stairs. He can
occasionally kneel, crawl, or crouch. He can occasionally
stoop or balance. He can frequently handle. He cannot climb
ropes, ladders, or scaffolds. He must avoid concentrated
exposure to hazards, fumes, dust, gases, and areas with poor
ventilation. He is limited to simple, routine, and repetitive
tasks. He cannot interact with the public. He can have
occasional contact with coworkers and supervisors. He is
limited [to] work settings that only undergo routine changes.
He can occasionally reach overhead. He can occasionally use
(Tr. 20). The ALJ further found that while El could not
perform any past relevant work, considering his age,
education, work experience, and RFC, he can perform other
jobs that exist in significant number in the national
economy. (Tr. 26-27, Findings 5 & 9). The ALJ found that
El would be able to perform jobs such as mail sorter,
photocopy-machine operator, and marker. (Tr.
These are the same jobs the VE listed during the hearing.
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and §
1383(c)(3), limits this Court's review of a final
decision of the Commissioner to: (1) whether substantial
evidence supports the Commissioner's decision,
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390, 401
(1971); and (2) whether the Commissioner applied the correct
legal standards. Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453,
1456 (4th Cir. 1990); see also Hunter v. Sullivan,
993 F.2d 31, 34 (4th Cir. 1992) (per curiam). The District
Court does not review a final decision of the Commissioner
de novo. Smith v. Schweiker, 795 F.2d 343,
345 (4th Cir. 1986); King v. Califano, 599 F.2d 597,
599 (4th Cir. 1979); Blalock v. Richardson, 483 F.2d
773, 775 (4th Cir. 1972).
Social Security Act provides that “[t]he findings of
the [Commissioner] as to any fact, if supported by
substantial evidence, shall be conclusive.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). In Smith v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1176,
1179 (4th Cir. 1986) (quoting Richardson v. Perales,
402 U.S. ...