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Nance v. Berryhill

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

March 6, 2018

DIRIEK J. NANCE, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1]Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          ORDER

          ROBERT J. CONRAD, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Deriek J. Nance'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. 14).

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff seeks judicial review of Defendant's denial of his social security claim. (Doc. No. 1). On April 2, 2013, Plaintiff filed his 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 163). In his application, Plaintiff alleged an onset date of August 20, 2008. (Tr. 170). Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon consideration. (Tr. 11).

         On April 16, 2015, a hearing was held in front of Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Theresa Jenkins. (Tr. 31-58). On May 13, 2015, ALJ Jenkins issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 11-25). The Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision on October 28, 2016, making the ALJ's opinion the final decision of Defendant. (Tr. 1-6). Plaintiff now appeals the ALJ's decision, requesting this Court to issue a remand pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g).

         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, on August 20, 2008, Plaintiff's alleged onset date, through March 31, 2009, the date Plaintiff was last insured.[2] (Tr. 11). 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. 25).

         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 duration requirement-if yes, disabled;
(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 23-24).

         To begin with, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had not engaged in any substantial gainful activity since August 20, 2008, his alleged onset date through the date Plaintiff was last insured, March 31, 2009. (Tr. 13). At the second step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: “multiple sclerosis, adjustment disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, peripheral neuropathy, right shoulder impingement syndrome, and polysubstance abuse.” (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.” (Tr. 14).

         Next, 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 he could sit up to 6 hours and stand or walk up to 4 hours. He must have been allowed to alternate between sitting and standing up to two times each hour. He should have avoided ladders, ropes, scaffolds, unprotected heights, and around machinery with dangerous parts. He could only occasionally perform other postural activities. He could frequently but not continuously use his upper and lower extremities for pushing, pulling, and operating hand controls. He could frequently but not continuously use his right, dominant upper extremity for reaching overhead. He could follow short, simple instructions and perform routine tasks. He could not do work requiring a production rate or demand pace. He could maintain frequent but not ...

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