United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
EDWARD D. WRIGHT, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
L. HOWELL, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to
obtain judicial review of the final decision by the
Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”)
denying Plaintiff's claim for disability benefits. This
case is now before the Court on the parties' Motions for
Summary Judgment. Upon a review of the record, the
parties' briefs, and the relevant legal authority, the
Court DENIES the Motion for Summary Judgment [# 17] and
GRANTS the Motion for Summary Judgement [# 14].
filed an application for supplemental security income on
January 28, 2013. (Transcript of Administrative Record
(“T.”) 131.) The application had a protective
filing date of November 20, 2012. (T. 12, 129.) Plaintiff
alleged an onset date of November 1, 2011. (T. 131.) At the
hearing before the ALJ, counsel amended the alleged onset
date to November 20, 2012. (T. 12.) The Social Security
Administration denied Plaintiff's claims. (T. 75-83.)
Plaintiff requested reconsideration of the decision, which
was also denied. (T. 84-95.) A disability hearing was then
held before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).
(T. 25-43.) The ALJ then issued a decision finding that
Plaintiff was not disabled from November 20, 2012. (T.
20-21.) Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision.
(T. 8.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review. (T. 1-7.) Plaintiff then brought this action
seeking review of the Commissioner's decision.
Standard for Determining Disability
individual is disabled for purposes of receiving disability
payments if she is unable to “engage in any substantial
gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable
physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result
in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a
continuous period of not less than 12 months . . . .”
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); see also Mastro v.
Apfel, 270 F.3d 171, 176 (4th Cir. 2001). The
Commissioner undertakes a five-step inquiry to determine
whether a claimant is disabled. Johnson v. Barnhart,
434 F.3d 650, 653 (4th Cir. 2005). Under this inquiry, the
Commissioner must consider in sequence: (1) whether a
claimant is gainfully employed; (2) whether a claimant has a
severe impairment that significantly limits his ability to
perform basic work-related functions; (3) whether the
claimant's impairment meets or exceeds the listing of
impairments contained in Appendix I of 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
subpart P; (4) whether the claimant can perform his past
relevant work; (5) whether the claimant is able to perform
any other work considering his age, education, and residual
functional capacity. Mastro, 270 F.3d at 177;
Johnson, 434 F.3d at 654 n.1; 20 C.F.R. §
first two steps, the burden is on the claimant to make the
requisite showing. Monroe v. Colvin, 826 F.3d 176,
179 (4th Cir. 2016). If a claimant fails to satisfy his or
her burden at either of these first two steps, the ALJ will
determine that the claimant is not disabled and the process
comes to an end. Mascio v. Colvin, 780 F.3d 632,
634-35 (4th Cir. 2015). The burden remains on the claimant at
step three to demonstrate that the claimant's impairments
satisfy a listed impairment and, thereby, establish
disability. Monroe, 826 F.3d at 179.
claimant fails to satisfy his or her burden at step three,
however, then the ALJ must still determine the claimant's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”).
Mascio, 780 F.3d at 635. After determining the
claimant's RFC, the ALJ proceeds to step four in order to
determine whether claimant can perform his or her past
relevant work. Id. The burden is on the claimant to
demonstrate that he or she is unable to perform past work.
Monroe, 826 F.3d at 180. If the ALJ determines that
a claimant is not cable of performing past work, then the ALJ
proceeds to step five. Mascio, 780 F.3d at 635.
five, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant can perform
other work. Id. The burden rest with the
Commissioner at step five to prove by a preponderance of the
evidence that the claimant is capable of performing other
work that exists in significant numbers in the national
economy, taking into account the claimant's RFC, age,
education, and work experience. Id.;
Monroe, 826 F.3d at 180. Typically, the Commissioner
satisfies her burden at step five through the use of the
testimony of a vocational expert, who offers testimony in
response to a hypothetical from the ALJ that incorporates the
claimant's limitations. Mascio, 780 F.3d at 635;
Monroe, 826 F.3d at 180. If the Commissioner
satisfies her burden at step five, then the ALJ will find
that a claimant is not disabled and deny the application for
disability benefits. Mascio, 780 F.3d at 635;
Monroe, 826 F.3d at 180.
The ALJ's Decision
July 22, 2014, decision the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not
disabled under Section 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security
Act. (T. 21.) The ALJ made the following specific findings:
(1) The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since November 20, 2012, the application date (20
CFR 416.971 et seq.).
(2) The claimant has the following severe impairments: a
schizophrenic disorder, anxiety-related disorders, a conduct
disorder and a history of substance addition disorders (20
(3) The claimant does not have an impairment or combination
of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,