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Johnson v. Berryhill

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

March 7, 2018

BRENDA R. JOHNSON, 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 Brenda R. Johnson's (“Plaintiff's”) Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 11), and Memorandum in Support, (Doc. No. 11-1), and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 12), and Memorandum in Support, (Doc. No. 13).

         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 her application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405 et seq. (Doc. No. 9: Administrative Record (“Tr.”) at 170-76). In her application, Plaintiff alleged an onset date of July 1, 2008. (Tr. 170). Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon consideration. (Tr. 27).

         On May 14, 2015, a hearing was held in front of an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 44-68). At this hearing, Plaintiff was represented by counsel and testimony was solicited from a vocational expert (“VE”). On July 14, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 27-39). The Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision on January 19, 2017, making the ALJ's opinion the final decision of Defendant. (Tr. 1-3). In its denial, the AC considered new evidence submitted by Plaintiff but stated that the new information was about a later time and therefore did not affect the ALJ's determination. (Tr. 2). 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, between July 1, 2008, Plaintiff's alleged onset date, and December 31, 2013, the date Plaintiff was last insured.[2] (Tr. 27). To establish entitlement to benefits, Plaintiff has the burden of proving that she 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. 38-39).

         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 ...

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