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Broom v. Berryhill

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

December 19, 2017

ELIZABETH BROOM, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,[1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, 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. 9); Plaintiff's Memorandum in Support, (Doc. No. 9-1); Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 10); Defendant's Memorandum in Support, (Doc. No. 11); and Plaintiff's Response in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 15). The motions are ripe for adjudication.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Background

         Elizabeth Broom (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of Nancy A. Berryhill's (“Defendant” or “Commissioner”) denial of her social security claim. Plaintiff filed an application under Title II for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits on September 29, 2011, alleging an onset date of June 4, 2011. (Doc. Nos. 8 to 8-17: Administrative Record (“Tr.”) at 162). Her applications were denied first on March 26, 2012, and again on October 29, 2012 upon reconsideration. (Id. at 90, 96). Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing on December 27, 2017, (Id. at 100), and an administrative hearing was held by an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) for the Social Security Administration on June 4, 2014. (Id. at 36-72). At her hearing, Plaintiff amended her alleged onset date of disability to April 1, 2013. (Id. at 40).

         Following this hearing, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff was not disabled from April 1, 2013, through the date of the decision. (Id. 16-35). The Plaintiff requested a review of the ALJ's decision on December 31, 2014, but on February 26, 2016, the Appeals Council denied the request, therefore finalizing the Commissioner's decision. (Id. at 1-6, 14-15). See C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.

         Plaintiff exhausted her administrative remedies and this case is now before the Court for disposition of the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 9), and Plaintiff's Memorandum in Support, (Doc. No. 9-1), were filed on September 6, 2016. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 10) and Memorandum in Support, (Doc. No. 11), were filed on November 3, 2016. Plaintiff then filed a response in support of her motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 15), on December 1, 2016. The pending motions are ripe for adjudication.

         B. Factual Background

         The question before the ALJ was whether Plaintiff was disabled under sections 216(i) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act. (Tr. 13). To establish entitlement to benefits, Plaintiff has the burden of proving that she was disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act.[2] Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n5 (1987). Plaintiff alleges that her disability began on April 1, 2013 due to chronic fatigue, joint pain, a brain tumor, thyroid tumor, vision problems, smelling problems, seizures, heart problems, and a hernia. (Tr. 75, 161).

         After reviewing Plaintiff's record and conducting a hearing, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not suffer from a disability as defined in the SSA. (Tr. 19-50). In reaching his conclusion, the ALJ used the five-step sequential evaluation process established by the Social Security Administration 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 duration requirement-if yes, disabled;
(4) whether claimant has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform his or her past relevant ...

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