United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
J. Conrad, Jr., United States District Judge
MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for
Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 12), and Memorandum in Support,
(Doc. No. 12-1); Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment, (Doc. No. 14), and Memorandum in Support, (Doc. No.
15); and Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 16).
Cassandra Ponder (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial
review of Defendant Social Security Commissioner's
(“Defendant” or “Commissioner”)
denial of her social security claim. (Doc. No. 1). On October
3, 2011, Plaintiff filed an application for a period of
disability and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) and supplemental security income
(“SSI”) under Title II and Title XVI of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405 et seq.
(Doc. Nos. 8 to 8-26: Administrative Record
(“Tr.”) at 201-17). Plaintiff alleged an
inability to work due to disabling conditions beginning on
April 1, 2010. (Id. at 201). The Commissioner denied
Plaintiff's applications initially and on
reconsideration. (Id. at 93, 110, 127, and 142).
Plaintiff filed a timely written request for a hearing.
(Id. at 50).
21, 2013, Plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and
testified at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). (Id. at 53-92). The ALJ issued
a decision on July 19, 2013, denying Plaintiff's claims.
(Id. at 12-35). Plaintiff filed a request for review
of the ALJ's decision on September 16, 2013, which was
the Appeals Council denied on November 22, 2013.
(Id. at 1-9). Plaintiff filed a complaint in federal
court seeking judicial review and a remand of her claim on
January 23, 2014 and was remanded to the Commissioner on
August 8, 2014 on the basis of a consent motion to remand
filed by Defendant. Ponder v. Colvin,
1:14-cv-00019-MOC (W.D. N.C. filed Jan. 23, 2014).
16, 2015, Plaintiff, represented by counsel, again appeared
and testified at a hearing before an ALJ-the same ALJ who
presided over the first hearing. (Id. at 1308-38).
The ALJ issued a decision on August 26, 2015, denying
Plaintiff's claims, which is the final decision of the
Commissioner. (Id. at 1279-307).
Complaint seeking judicial review and a remand of her case
was filed in this Court on December 23, 2015. (Doc. No. 1).
Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 12),
and Plaintiff's Memorandum in Support, (Doc. No. 12-1),
were filed June 6, 2016; and Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 14), and Defendant's
Memorandum in Support, (Doc. No. 15), were filed September 6,
2016. Plaintiff filed a response to Defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgment on September 23, 2016, but rested on the
arguments she made in her Memorandum in Support of her Motion
for Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 16). 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 April 1, 2010,
and the date of his decision on August, 26,
2015. (Tr. at 1307). 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 April 1, 2010, through the date of his
decision, August 26, 2015. (Tr. at 1307).
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 1306-07).
the ALJ first concluded that Plaintiff had not engaged in any
substantial gainful activity since April 1, 2010, the alleged
disability onset date. (Id. at 1284-85). At the
second step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: “fibromyalgia, migraine headaches,
irritable bowel syndrome, a history of abdominal
endometriosis, depression, [and] anxiety.”
(Id. at 1285). At the third step, the ALJ determined
that Plaintiff did not have an “impairment or
combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the
severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1.” (Id. at 1285-86).
the ALJ assessed Plaintiff's RFC and found that she
retained the capacity to perform “medium”
work. (Id. at 1290). Specifically, the
ALJ found ...