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Bullock v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

February 14, 2017

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.


          Robert J. Conrad, Jr. United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 21), and Memorandum in Support, (Doc. No. 24), and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 22), and Memorandum in Support, (Doc. No. 23). The motions are ripe for adjudication.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Background

         Pro se Plaintiff Billy Bullock (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of Carolyn Colvin's (“Defendant” or “Commissioner”) denial of his social security claim. (Doc. No. 1). On February 24, 2011, Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405 et seq. (Tr. 17).[1] In his application, Plaintiff alleged an inability to work due to post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, hypertension, high cholesterol, and sleep apnea beginning on January 1, 1993. (Id.). The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application initially on January 18, 2012 (Id.).

         On April 19, 2013, Plaintiff appeared and testified at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Id. at 26-52). The ALJ issued a decision on June 6, 2013, denying Plaintiff's claims. (Id. at 14-25). Plaintiff filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision on or about July 29, 2013, which was denied by the Appeals Council on October 27, 2014. (Id. at 7- 13). On November 12, 2014, the October 27, 2014 denial was set aside and the Appeals Council considered additional information before again denying Plaintiff's request. (Id. at 1-6). Therefore, the June 6, 2013 ALJ decision became the final decision of the Commissioner.

         Plaintiff's Complaint seeking judicial review and a remand of her case was filed in this Court on January 7, 2015. (Doc. No. 1). On January 5, 2016, the Court denied Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Prosecution, which was filed because Plaintiff had yet to file a motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 16). The Court warned Plaintiff that failure to timely file his motion for summary judgment would result in dismissal of this case. (Id.). When Plaintiff again missed the deadline to file his motion, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's Complaint with prejudice. (Doc. No. 17). But upon Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration, (Doc. No. 19), alleging he did not receive the Court's order setting new deadlines for motions for summary judgment, the Court reopened the case and again set new deadlines. (Doc. No. 20). Plaintiff filed his Motion for Summary Judgment on April 25, 2016. (Doc. No. 21). Although styled as a Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff's filing consisted of a request to rule in his favor on summary judgment accompanied by a 140 page exhibit containing what primarily appears to be pages from the Administrative Record, some of which had handwritten annotations presumably from Plaintiff. (Doc. No. 21-1). Defendant filed her Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support on May 25, 2016. (Doc. Nos. 22, 23). On June 13, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Memorandum in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 24). Although not timely filed and despite the numerous warnings Plaintiff has been given about honoring deadlines, the Court will consider the arguments made in his memorandum. The pending motions are ripe for disposition.

         B. Factual Background

         The question before the ALJ was whether Plaintiff was under a “disability” as that term of art is defined for Social Security purposes, at any time between January 1, 1993, the alleged onset date, and December 31, 1997, the date last insured.[2] (Tr. at 17). To establish entitlement to benefits, Plaintiff has the burden of proving that he was disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5 (1987). The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not under a disability at any time from January 1, 1993 through December 31, 2007, the date last insured. (Tr. at 14-25).

         The Social Security Administration has established a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining if a person is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a). The five steps are:

(1) whether claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity-if yes, not disabled;
(2) whether claimant has a severe medically determinable physical or mental impairment, or combination of impairments that meet the duration requirement in § 404.1509-if no, not disabled;
(3) whether claimant has an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listings in appendix 1 and meets the duration requirement-if yes, disabled;
(4) whether claimant has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform his or her past relevant ...

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