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.

Kennedy v. Berryhill

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

August 6, 2019

DEBRA L. KENNEDY Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          ROBERT J. CONRAD, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the parties' cross Motions for Summary Judgment, (Doc. Nos. 12, 14), and the parties' associated briefs and exhibits. The motions are ripe for adjudication.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Background

         Debra Lynn Kennedy (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of Nancy A. Berryhill's (“Defendant” or “Commissioner”) denial of her social security claim. Plaintiff filed applications for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act (“SSA”) and supplemental security income under Title XVI of the SSA on March 31, 2014, alleging a disability onset date of February 26, 2014. (Doc. Nos. 10 to 10-1: Administrative Record (“Tr.”) at 14). Her applications were denied first on August 25, 2014, (Tr. 121), and upon reconsideration on February 11, 2015, (Tr. 128, 136). Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing on August 31, 2015, (Tr. 148), and an administrative hearing was held by an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) on February 27, 2017. (Tr. 37).

         Following this hearing, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled under the SSA. (Tr. 11-24). Plaintiff requested a review of the ALJ's decision, but the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for a review. (Tr. 1). After having exhausted her administrative remedies, Plaintiff now seeks judicial review of Defendant's denial of her social security claim in this Court.

         B. Factual Background

         The question before the ALJ was whether Plaintiff was disabled under Sections 216(i), 223(d), and 1614(a)(3)(A) of the SSA. (Tr. 14). To establish entitlement to benefits, Plaintiff has the burden of proving that she was disabled within the meaning of the SSA.[1] Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5 (1987). Plaintiff alleges that her disability began on February 26, 2014, due to her impairments of seizures, bipolar disorder, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), schizophrenia, and insomnia. (Tr. 15-16, 207).

         After reviewing Plaintiff's record and conducting a hearing, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not suffer from a disability as defined in the SSA. (Tr. 24). In reaching his conclusion, the ALJ used the five-step sequential evaluation process established by the Social Security Administration for determining if a person is disabled. The Fourth Circuit has described the five steps as follows:

[The ALJ] asks whether the claimant: (1) worked during the purported period of disability; (2) has an impairment that is appropriately severe and meets the duration requirement; (3) has an impairment that meets or equals the requirements of a listed impairment and meets the duration requirement; (4) can return to [her] past relevant work; and (5) if not, can perform any other work in the national economy.

Radford v. Colvin, 734 F.3d 288, 290-91 (4th Cir. 2013) (paraphrasing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4)). The claimant has the burden of production and proof in the first four steps. Pearson v. Colvin, 810 F.3d 204, 207 (4th Cir. 2015). However, at the fifth step, the Commissioner must prove that the claimant is able to perform other work in the national economy despite her limitations. See id.; see also 20 C.F.R. § 416.960(c)(2) (explaining that the Commissioner has the burden to prove at the fifth step “that other work exists in significant numbers in the national economy that [the claimant] can do”). In this case, the ALJ determined at the fifth step that Plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr. 22-24).

         In reaching his decision, the ALJ first concluded at steps one through three that Plaintiff was not employed, that she suffered from severe mental impairments, and that her impairments did not meet or equal any of the impairments listed in the Administration's regulations. (Tr. 16-17). Therefore, the ALJ examined the evidence of Plaintiff's impairments and made a finding as to Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”):

[T]he claimant has the [RFC] to perform medium work . . . except she must avoid concentrated exposure to hazards; and she is limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks in a stable environment at a nonproduction pace with occasional interpersonal interaction. She is expected to be off task nine percent (9%) of an eight-hour workday.

(Tr. 19). Having established Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff could not perform the work in which she had previously been employed. (Tr. 22). Therefore, the ALJ proceeded to the fifth and final step of the process: determining whether, given the limitations embodied in her RFC, Plaintiff could perform any work that existed in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 22-23). To make that determination, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert (“VE”). The VE testified that Plaintiff would be able to perform at least three representative occupations that exist in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 23, 57- 58). The ALJ accepted the VE's testimony and ...


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.