Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Pharr v. Berryhill

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

April 17, 2019

RIKKI ACQUELLIA PHARR, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          W. Carleton Metcalf United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on the parties' cross motions for summary judgment (Docs. 14, 20).[1]

         Plaintiff brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to obtain judicial review of the final decision by the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying her claim for disability benefits. The issues have been fully briefed, and the matter is now ripe for ruling. Following a review of the record, the parties' briefs, and relevant legal authority, the Court grants Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and denies the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment.

         I. Procedural History

         On March 14, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security income. (Transcript of Administrative Record (“T.”) 13, 15.)

         Plaintiff's claim was denied in June of 2013 and again, on reconsideration, in August of 2013.

         In September of 2013, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).

         On June 2, 2015, a hearing was conducted before ALJ Valorie Stefanelli in Charlotte, North Carolina. (T. 70-108.) Plaintiff was represented at the hearing by attorney Daniel Bridgman. Vocational Expert (“VE”) Carol Crawford was also present. (T. 70.)

         On July 17, 2015, a notice was sent to Plaintiff advising her that she had received an unfavorable decision from the ALJ. (T. 138-40; 141-53.) Plaintiff subsequently sought review by the Appeals Council.

         On September 8, 2016, the Appeals Council remanded the case to the ALJ. (T. 158-62.) In its remand order, the Appeals Council directed the ALJ to obtain supplemental evidence from a VE in order to clarify the effect of the assessed limitations on Plaintiff's occupational base. (T. 13.)

         On July 13, 2017, another hearing was held before ALJ Stefanelli. (T. 13.) Plaintiff appeared in person and was again represented by attorney Bridgman. (T. 13, 37.) A VE, Melissa Brinson, was present via telephone. (T. 37.)

         On November 16, 2017, Plaintiff was sent a notice of unfavorable decision and informed how to file an appeal. (T. 10-12.)

         On February 27, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's November 16, 2017 decision. (T. 1-3.)

         On April 24, 2018, Plaintiff filed the instant action. See (Doc. 2).

         II. Standard for Determining Disability

         An individual is disabled for purposes of receiving disability payments if he or she is unable to “engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); accord Mastro v. Apfel, 270 F.3d 171, 176 (4th Cir. 2001). The Commissioner undertakes a five-step inquiry to determine whether a claimant is disabled. Johnson v. Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650, 653 (4th Cir. 2005) (per curiam). Under this sequential evaluation, the Commissioner must consider each of the following: (1) whether the claimant has engaged in substantial gainful employment; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment; (3) whether the claimant's impairment is sufficiently severe to meet or exceed the severity of one or more of the listing of impairments contained in Appendix I of 20 C.F.R. Part 404, subpart P; (4) whether the claimant can perform his or her past relevant work; and (5) whether the claimant is able to perform any other work considering his or her age, education, and residual functional capacity (“RFC”). 20 C.F.R. § 416.920; Mastro, 270 F.3d at 177; Johnson, 434 F.3d at 653 n.1.

         At the first two steps of the sequential evaluation, the burden is on the claimant to make the requisite showing. Monroe v. Colvin, 826 F.3d 176, 179 (4th Cir. 2016). If a claimant fails to satisfy his or her burden at either of these first two steps, the ALJ will determine that the claimant is not disabled, and the process comes to an end. Mascio v. Colvin, 780 F.3d 632, 634-35 (4th Cir. 2015). The burden remains on the claimant at step three to demonstrate that the claimant's impairments satisfy a listed impairment and, thereby, establish disability. Monroe, 826 F.3d at 179.

         If the claimant fails to satisfy his or her burden at step three, however, then the ALJ must determine the claimant's RFC. Mascio, 780 F.3d at 635. After determining the claimant's RFC, the ALJ proceeds to step four in order to determine whether the claimant can perform his or her past relevant work. Id. The burden is on the claimant to demonstrate that he or she is unable to perform past work. Monroe, 826 F.3d at 180. If the ALJ determines that a claimant is not capable of performing past work, then the ALJ proceeds to step five. Mascio, 780 F.3d at 635.

         At step five, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant can perform other work. Id. The burden rests with the Commissioner at step five to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the claimant can perform other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy, considering the claimant's RFC, age, education, and work experience. Id.; Monroe, 826 F.3d at 180. Typically, the Commissioner satisfies her burden at step five with the testimony of a VE, who responds to a hypothetical question from the ALJ that incorporates the claimant's limitations. Mascio, 780 F.3d at 635; Monroe, 826 F.3d at 180. If the Commissioner satisfies her burden at step five, then the ALJ will find that the claimant is not disabled and deny the application for disability benefits. Mascio, 780 F.3d at 635; Monroe, 826 F.3d at 180.

         III. The ALJ's Final Decision

         In her November 16, 2017 decision, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled under section 1614(a)(3)(4) of the Social Security Act. (T. 13-28.) In support of this conclusion, the ALJ made the following specific findings:

(1) The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 14, 2013, the application date (20 C.F.R. § 416.971 et seq.).
(2) The claimant has the following severe impairments: peripheral artery disorder status post femoral surgery, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, anxiety, and obesity (20 C.F.R. § 416.920(c)).
(3) The claimant does 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. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.