United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
MURIEL S. BROOKS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
J. Conrad, Jr., United States District Judge
MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for
Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 6), and Memorandum in Support,
(Doc. No. 7), and Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment, (Doc. No. 9), and Memorandum in Support, (Doc. No.
Muriel S. Brooks (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial
review of Carolyn W. Colvin's (“Defendant” or
“Commissioner”) denial of her social security
claim. (Doc. No. 1). On March 16, 2012, 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.
(Doc. Nos. 5 to 5-13: Administrative Record
(“Tr.”) at 71). Plaintiff alleged an inability to
work due to disabling conditions beginning on December 9,
2010. (Id. at 145-46). The Commissioner denied
Plaintiff's application initially on July 16, 2012, and
again after reconsideration on October 10, 2012.
(Id. at 88-91, 93-96). Plaintiff filed a timely
written request for a hearing. (Id. at 97-98).
April 8, 2014, Plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared
and testified at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). (Id. at 31-59). The ALJ issued
a decision on July 3, 2014, denying Plaintiff's claims.
(Id. at 13-30). Plaintiff filed a request for review
of the ALJ's decision on or about September 8, 2014,
which was denied by the Appeals Council on July 25, 2015.
(Id. at 12, 8-10). Therefore, the July 3, 2014 ALJ
decision became the final decision of the Commissioner.
Complaint seeking judicial review and a remand of her case
was filed in this Court on September 23, 2015. (Doc. No. 1).
Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 6),
and Plaintiff's Memorandum in Support, (Doc. No. 7), were
filed February 8, 2016; and Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 9), and Defendant's
Memorandum in Support, (Doc. No. 10), were filed May 9, 2016.
Plaintiff did not file a response to Defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgment and the time for doing so has passed.
The pending motions are ripe for adjudication.
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 December 9,
2010, and the date of his decision on July 3,
2014. (Tr. at 16). To establish entitlement to
benefits, Plaintiff has the burden of proving that she 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 December 9, 2010, through the date of his
decision, July 3, 2014. (Tr. at 13-30).
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,
(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
(4) whether claimant has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform his or her past relevant
work-if yes, not disabled; and
(5) whether considering claimant's RFC, age, education,
and work experience he or she can make an adjustment to other
work-if yes, not disabled.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i-v). In this
case, the ALJ determined at the fifth step that Plaintiff was
not disabled. (Tr. at 20-25).
the ALJ first concluded that Plaintiff had not engaged in any
substantial gainful activity since December 9, 2010, the
alleged disability onset date. (Id. at 18). At the
second step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: “anxiety, panic attacks,
depression, urinary incontinence, status-post tailbone
injury, migraine headache, and obesity.”
(Id.). At the third step, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff did not have an “impairment or combination of