United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division
NATALIE D. BARAN, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
TERRENCE W. BOYLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the parties' cross-motions
for judgment on the pleadings. [DE 17, 19]. A hearing on this
matter was held in Raleigh, North Carolina on July 25, 2017.
[DE 25]. For the reasons discussed below, this matter is
REMANDED for further consideration by the Commissioner.
has previous work experience as an office manager from 1994
to 2007, a waitress in 2009, and a chef in 2010. Plaintiff
asserts that she stopped working due to insulin-dependent
diabetes mellitus with neuropathy, fibromyalgia, bipolar
disorder, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Plaintiff has alleged
an onset date of December 15, 2009.
August 5, 2011, plaintiff filed applications for disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act
("Act") and supplemental security income benefits
under Title XVI of the Act. Plaintiffs applications were
denied both initially and upon reconsideration. An
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") held a hearing to
consider plaintiffs claims de novo and, on March 12,
2013, issued a decision denying plaintiffs claim. Plaintiff
requested a review of the ALJ's decision. On May 12,
2014, the Appeals Council issued an order for another
hearing. A second hearing was held before a different ALJ on
December 3, 2014, and resulted in another unfavorable
decision on January 16, 2015. Plaintiff again requested a
review of the ALJ's decision, but was denied by the
Appeals Council on May 7, 2016, rendering the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner. On June 10,
2016, plaintiff filed a complaint with the court seeking
judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
social security claimant appeals a final decision of the
Commissioner, the district court's review is limited to
the determination of whether the Commissioner employed the
correct legal standard and whether, based on the entire
administrative record, there is substantial evidence to
support the Commissioner's findings. 42 U.S.C. §
405(g); Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401
(1971). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence
as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion." Johnson v. Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650,
653 (4th Cir. 2005) (per curiam) (internal quotation and
individual is considered disabled 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
[twelve] months." 42 U.S.C. § l382c(a)(3)(A). The
Act further provides that an individual:
shall be determined to be under a disability only if h[er]
physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such
severity that [s]he is not only unable to do h[er] previous
work but cannot, considering h[er] age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other line of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy.
42U.S.C. § l382c(a)(3)(B).
making an initial disability determination, the ALJ engages
in a sequential five-step evaluation process. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a); see Johnson, A7>A F.3d at
653. The burden of proof is on the claimant for the first
four steps of this inquiry, but shifts to the Commissioner at
the fifth step. Pass v. Chater, 65 F.3d 1200, 1203
(4th Cir. 1995). The ALJ's inquiry ceases if a decision
regarding disability can be made at any step of the process.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4).
evaluating adults, if the claimant is currently engaged in
substantial gainful activity the ALJ denies the claim at step
one. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). At step two, the claim
is denied if the claimant does not have a severe impairment
or combination of impairments significantly limiting her from
performing basic work activities. Id. At step three,
the claimant's impairment is compared to those in the
Listing of Impairments. Id. (citing 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, App. 1). If the impairment is listed in the
Listing of Impairments or if it is equivalent to a listed
impairment, disability is conclusively presumed. Id.
However, if the claimant's impairment does not meet or
equal a listed impairment then, at step four, the
claimant's residual functional capacity ("RFC")
is assessed to determine whether plaintiff can perform her
past work despite her impairments. Id. When
assessing a claimant's RFC, the ALJ is to consider both
severe and non-severe impairments, and any combination
thereof, taking into account both objective medical evidence
as well as subjective complaints of pain and limitations. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1545(e). If the claimant cannot perform
past relevant work ("PRW"), the analysis moves on
to step five: establishing whether the claimant-based on her
age, work experience, and RFC-can make an adjustment to
perform other substantial gainful work. 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4). If the claimant cannot perform other work,
then she is found to be disabled. Id.
present case, the ALJ's January 16, 2015, decision found
that the plaintiff had the RFC to perform light work, ...