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Lorch v. Berryhill

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

March 31, 2017

ANGELA M. LORCH, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Robert J. Conrad, Jr. United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 11), and Memorandum in Support, (Doc. No. 12), and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 13), and Memorandum in Support, (Doc. No. 14).

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff Angela Lorch (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of Defendant Social Security Commissioner's (“Defendant” or “Commissioner”) denial of her social security claim. (Doc. No. 1). On July 15, 2013, 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. 10 to 10-21: Administrative Record (“Tr.”) at 257-59). Plaintiff alleged an inability to work due to disabling conditions beginning on April 27, 2012. (Id. at 258). The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application initially on October 17, 2013, and again after reconsideration on June 3, 2014. (Id. at 173-76, 179-82). Plaintiff filed a timely written request for a hearing. (Id. at 183-84).

         On October 31, 2014, Plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Id. at 53-93). The ALJ issued a decision on December 22, 2014, denying Plaintiff's claims. (Id. at 151-68). Plaintiff filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision on or about January 20, 2015, which was granted by the Appeals Council on February 24, 2015. (Id. at 169-72). The Appeals Council concluded that the ALJ's December 22, 2014 decision did not address or weigh the opinions expresses by Dr. Susan Roque and Allison Tucker, and remanded to the ALJ for further consideration of the Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) with specific instruction to evaluate the treating and nontreating source opinions. (Id. at 170-71).

         On April 3, 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 29-49). The ALJ issued a decision on June 22, 2015, denying Plaintiff's claims. (Id. at 9-28). Plaintiff filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision on or about July 14, 2015, which was denied by the Appeals Council on December 16, 2015. (Id. at 1-8). Therefore, the June 22, 2015 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 February 15, 2016. (Doc. No. 1). Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 11), and Plaintiff's Memorandum in Support, (Doc. No. 12), were filed July 11, 2016; and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 13), and Defendant's Memorandum in Support, (Doc. No. 14), were filed September 8, 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.

         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 April 27, 2012, and the date of his decision on June 22, 2015.[1] (Tr. at 13). 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 27, 2012, through the date of his decision, June 22, 2015. (Tr. at 12-21).

         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 ...

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