United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
Kenneth D. Bell United States District Judge
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff Doyle
Quentin Henderson's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No.
9) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No.
10). Plaintiff, through counsel, seeks judicial review of an
unfavorable administrative decision regarding his application
for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”).
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 is not
supported by substantial evidence. 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.
Henderson protectively filed his application for DIB on March
4, 2013. (Tr. at 100; 463-66; Doc. No. 9-1, at
His application alleged disability since October 21, 2011,
(Tr. at 463), and his date last insured is December 31, 2013.
(Tr. at 100). His application was initially denied on
September 23, 2013 and again upon reconsideration on January
23, 2014. (Tr. at 213-29; 230-48). Mr. Henderson requested a
hearing before an ALJ on March 10, 2014, which was denied on
November 4, 2014. (Tr. at 344-45; 100). Mr. Henderson
appealed, and the Appeals Council remanded the case to the
ALJ. (Tr. at 100).
hearing was held on June 20, 2017 before the ALJ. (Tr. at
128-53). In the ALJ's decision, he ultimately concluded
that Mr. Henderson was not disabled under sections 216(i) and
223(d) of the Social Security Act and denied his application
in a decision dated March 12, 2018. (Tr. at 100-17). The
Appeals Council denied his request for review of the
ALJ's decision. (Tr. at 1-4). The ALJ's decision now
stands as the final decision of the Commissioner, and Mr.
Henderson has requested judicial review.
reasons stated below, the Court reverses the decision of the
Commissioner and remands this matter for further proceedings
consistent with this Order.
THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION
one, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Henderson had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date and
filing date. (Tr. at 103). At step two, the ALJ
concluded that Mr. Henderson had the severe impairments of
spine disorder, obesity, and depression and anxiety. (Tr. at
103-04). At step three, the ALJ concluded that his severe
impairments did not meet or medically equal the listed
impairments within 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, app. 1.
(Tr. at 104-06). At this step, the ALJ concluded that Mr.
Henderson has moderate limitations in concentrating,
persisting, or maintaining pace. (Tr. at 105). Before
proceeding to step four, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Henderson
had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform light work,
except that the claimant can only occasionally push/pull with
his lower extremities, including but not limited to foot
controls; the claimant can never climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds; the claimant can only occasionally climb ramps and
stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; the
claimant cannot have concentrated exposure to extreme heat or
cold, vibrations, and/or hazards, such as unprotected heights
and dangerous moving machinery; the claimant is limited to
simple, routine repetitive tasks; the claimant's time off
task can be accommodated by normal breaks; and the claimant
can only have occasional interaction with the public.
(Tr. at 106). When making his RFC assessment, the ALJ
considered the opinions of several sources, including a
licensed clinical social worker, a consultative psychologist,
and state agency medical and psychological consultants, among
other sources (Tr. at 111-15), as well as Mr. Henderson's
subjective statements about his symptoms. (Tr. at 106-11).
The ALJ concluded at step four that Mr. Henderson is unable
to perform any past relevant work. (Tr. at 115). At step
five, however, the ALJ concluded that there are jobs existing
in significant numbers in the national economy that he can
perform despite his limitations, rendering him ineligible for
DIB. (Tr. at 115-16). The vocational expert
(“VE”) testified that given the limitations
ultimately included in the RFC determination, Mr. Henderson
would still be able to perform jobs such as checker I,
inspector/hand packager of plastic parts, and assembler of
small products I/bench assembler. (Tr. at 116; 144-47). The
Appeals Council denied review and Mr. Henderson has appealed
to this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Tr. at
1-4; Doc. No. 9).
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, 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
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 Perales, 402 U.S. ...