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Worley v. Berryhill

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

March 30, 2018

CONDRA KAY WORLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Defendant.

          ORDER

          DAVID C. KEESLER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER IS BEFORE THE COURT on Plaintiff's “Motion For Judgment On The Pleadings F. R. Civ. Pro. 12(c)” (Document No. 17) and “Defendant's Motion For Summary Judgment” (Document No. 21). The parties have consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), and these motions are ripe for disposition. After careful consideration of the written arguments, the administrative record, applicable authority, and oral arguments, the undersigned will direct that Plaintiff's “Motion For Judgment On The Pleadings F. R. Civ. Pro. 12(c)” (Document No. 17) be granted; that “Defendant's Motion For Summary Judgment” (Document No. 21) be denied; and that the Commissioner's decision be vacated.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Condra Kay Worley (“Plaintiff”), through counsel, seeks judicial review of an unfavorable administrative decision on her application for disability benefits. (Document No. 1). On or about April 12, 2012, Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405, alleging an inability to work due to a disabling condition beginning August 13, 2010. (Transcript of the Record of Proceedings (“Tr.”) 12, 202). The alleged onset date was later amended to April 29, 2013. (Tr. 12).

         The Commissioner of Social Security (the “Commissioner” or “Defendant”) denied Plaintiff's application initially on July 5, 2012, and again after reconsideration on January 3, 2013. (Tr. 12, 106, 116). In its “Notice of Reconsideration, ” the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) included the following explanation of its decision:

The medical evidence shows that your condition is not severe enough to be considered disabling. You are able to think, act in your own interest, communicate, handle your own affairs, and adjust to ordinary emotional stresses without significant difficulties.
We do not have sufficient vocational information to determine whether you can perform any of your past relevant work. However, based on the evidence in file, we have determined that you can adjust to other work.
It has been decided, therefore, that you are not disabled according to the Social Security Act.

(Tr. 116).

         Plaintiff filed a timely written request for a hearing on January 14, 2013. (Tr. 12, 124). On April 13, 2015, Plaintiff appeared and testified at a video hearing before Administrative Law Judge Jonathan Baird (the “ALJ”). (Tr. 12, 31-63). The claimant appeared in Gastonia, North Carolina, and the ALJ presided over the hearing from Lawrence, Massachusetts. In addition, Larry Takki, a vocational expert (“VE”), and Vaughn S. Clauson, Plaintiff's attorney, appeared at the hearing. Id.

         The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on June 16, 2015, denying Plaintiff's claim. (Tr. 9-24). On August 20, 2015, Plaintiff filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision, which was denied by the Appeals Council on September 19, 2016. (Tr. 1-3, 7-8). The ALJ decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's review request. (Tr. 1).

         Plaintiff's “Complaint” seeking a reversal of the ALJ's determination was filed in this Court on November 23, 2016. (Document No. 1). On May 2, 2017, the parties consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction in this matter. (Document No. 15)

         Plaintiff's “Motion For Judgment On The Pleadings F. R. Civ. Pro. 12(c)” (Document No. 17) and “Memorandum In Support Of Motion For Judgment On The Pleadings (Document No. 18) were filed June 8, 2017; and “Defendant's Motion For Summary Judgment” (Document No. 21) and “Memorandum In Support Of Defendant's Motion For Summary Judgment” (Document No. 22) were filed September 7, 2017.[1] Plaintiff's “Reply To Acting Commissioner's Brief In Support Of Motion For Judgment On Pleadings (Doc. 22)” (Document No. 23) was filed on September 21, 2017.

         The undersigned held a hearing in this matter on March 28, 2018, allowing the parties one more opportunity to present their arguments. Based on the foregoing, the pending motions are now ripe for review and disposition.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and § 1383(c)(3), limits this Court's review of a final decision of the Commissioner to: (1) whether substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's decision; and (2) whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards. Richardson v. ...


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