United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
HANNAH R. HOLBROOK, 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. 11), and Memorandum in
Support, (Doc. No. 12), and Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 14), and Memorandum in Support,
(Doc. No. 15).
Hannah R. Holbrook (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial
review of Defendant Social Security Commissioner's
(“Defendant” or “Commissioner”)
denial of her social security claim. (Doc. No. 1). On April
14, 2012, Plaintiff filed her 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. 10 to 10-8: Administrative Record
(“Tr.”) at 142). In her application, Plaintiff
alleged an inability to work due to disabling conditions
beginning on April 10, 2012. (Id. at 115).
Plaintiff's application was denied initially on September
4, 2012 and again upon reconsideration on February 8, 2013.
(Id.). A hearing was then held on November 5, 2013
before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Jane A.
Crawford where Plaintiff's mother and a vocational expert
provided testimony. (Id. at 20-75, 115). On March
27, 2015, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's claims and the
Appeals Council thereafter denied Plaintiff's request for
review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final
determination of Defendant. (Id. at 1-7, 112-35).
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 14, 2012,
the date of her application, and March 27, 2015, the date of
the ALJ's decision. (Id. at 115). To establish
entitlement to benefits, Plaintiff has the burden of proving
that he was disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146
n.5 (1987). The ALJ ultimately concluded that Plaintiff was
not under a disability at any point in the relevant
timeframe. (Tr. at 128-29).
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 128-29).
begin with, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had not engaged
in any substantial gainful activity since April 14, 2012, the
date of her application. (Id. at 117). At the second
step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: “polycystic ovarian syndrome; bipolar
disorder; general anxiety disorder; depression; and bulimia
nervosa.” (Id.). 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 118).
the ALJ assessed Plaintiff's RFC and found that he
retained the capacity to perform:
a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the
following nonexertional limitations: the claimant can perform
simple, routine tasks in a job that does not require assembly
line pace or adherence to strict production quotas; she can
maintain frequent contact with coworkers and supervisors and
occasional, superficial contact with the public; and the
claimant cannot work in environments where she would be
working with food.
(Id. at 120). In making her finding, the ALJ
specifically stated that she “considered all symptoms
and the extent to which these symptoms can reasonably be
accepted as consistent with the objective medical evidence
and other evidence.” (Id.). The ALJ further
opined that he “considered opinion evidence in
accordance with the requirements of 20 CFR 404.1527 ...