United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
JOI ELIZABETH PEAKE, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff Cheryle Rabon ("Plaintiff") brought this action pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended (42 U.S.C. § 405(g)), to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act (the "Act"). The parties have filed cross-motions for judgment, and the administrative record has been certified to the Court for review.
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff filed her application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") on November 26, 2004, alleging a disability onset date of July 23, 2004. (Tr. at 58-67.) She subsequently amended her alleged onset date to December 3, 2004. (Tr. at 917-18) Plaintiff's application was denied initially (Tr. at 37) and upon reconsideration (Tr. at 34). Thereafter, she requested a hearing de novo before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (See Tr. at 43.) Present at the hearing, held on March 17, 2008, were Plaintiff, her attorney, and a vocational expert ("VE"). (Tr. at 11.) The ALJ ultimately determined that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act from her alleged onset date until February 11, 2007, but that she became disabled on February 11, 2007, when she reached fifty years of age. (Tr. at 22-23.) On June 10, 2010, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the decision, thereby making the ALJ's conclusion the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of judicial review. (Tr. at 2-6.)
In rendering his disability determination, the ALJ made the following findings later adopted by the Commissioner:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2009.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 3, 2004, her amended alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1520(b) and 20 CFR 404.1571 et seq. ).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: chronic pain syndrome, fibromyalgia, and depression (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d)).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a), which involves lifting no more than ten pounds at a time and occasionally lifting articles like docket files, ledgers, and small tools. She can only occasionally climb, balance, or kneel and she experiences mild problems with concentration and memory.
(Tr. at 13, 15-16.)
Considering Plaintiff's education, the above findings regarding residual functional capacity ("RFC"), and her age at the time of her alleged onset, the ALJ ultimately determined that Plaintiff could perform other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. at 22.) He therefore found that Plaintiff was not under a "disability, " as defined in the Act, from her alleged onset date through February 11, 2007. (Tr. at 23.) However, beginning on February 11, 2007, when Plaintiff's age category changed to "closely approaching advanced age, " the Medical-Vocational Guidelines directed a finding ...