United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina
MELISSA W. EDWARDS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL , Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
J. Conrad, Jr., United States District Judge
MATTER comes before the Court on Melissa W.
Edward's (“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.
seeks judicial review of Defendant's denial of her social
security claim. (Doc. No. 1). On July 11, 2013, Plaintiff
filed her application for a period of disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405 et seq. (Doc.
Nos. 10 to 10-8: Administrative Record (“Tr.”) at
48-49). In her application, Plaintiff alleged an inability to
work due to disabling conditions of: (1) major back surgery
in April 2013, on bone stimulizer; (2) bone stimulator in
lower back; (3) spinal fusion; (4) removed disc; (5) high
cholesterol; and (6) diabetes.
48). Plaintiff claimed that these conditions began on January
21, 2013. (Tr. 49). Plaintiff's application was denied
initially and upon consideration. (Tr. 8).
27, 2016, a hearing was held in front of an Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ” (Tr. 23-47). On July 15, 2016,
the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled.
(Tr. 8-19). The Appeals Council denied review of the
ALJ's decision on September 1, 2016, making the ALJ's
opinion the final decision of Defendant. (Tr. 1-3). Plaintiff
now appeals the ALJ's decision to this Court pursuant to
42 U.S.C. §405(g).
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 January 21,
2013, Plaintiff's alleged onset date, and July 15, 2016,
the date of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 8). 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. 19).
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 18).
begin with, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had not engaged
in any substantial gainful activity since January 21, 2013,
her alleged onset date. (Tr. 10). At the second step, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
“lumbar degenerative disc disease, status post lumbar
fusion, 1ight knee degenerative joint disease, diabetes
mellitus, and obesity.” (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.”
the ALJ assessed Plaintiff's RFC and found that he
retained the capacity to perform:
light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except that she
is further limited to occasional bending, stooping,
squatting, twisting, crawling, and crouching, and no climbing
or work around dangerous heights or equipment. She must be
allowed to alternate between sitting and standing ...