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Foster v. Berryhill

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

April 23, 2019

EVA NELL FOSTER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social, Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          WALLACE CAPEL, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Eva Nell Foster (“Foster” or “Plaintiff”) brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying her application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits under the Social Security Act. The Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's application initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 23. Plaintiff timely requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), and a hearing was held on October 28, 2016. Tr. 37-64. The ALJ rendered an unfavorable decision on April 27, 2017. Tr. 20-32. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Tr. 1-6. Plaintiff then filed this lawsuit seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision. See Compl. (Doc. 1). The parties have consented to the exercise of jurisdiction by the Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 636(c) for all proceedings in this Court. For the reasons stated herein and based on its review of the record, the Court finds that the Commissioner's decision is due to be REVERSED and REMANDED.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A), a person is entitled to benefits when the person is unable:

to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment[1] 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.

         To make this determination, the Commissioner employs a five-step, sequential evaluation process. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920 (2011).

(1) Is the person presently unemployed?
(2) Is the person's impairment severe?
(3) Does the person's impairment meet or equal one of the specific impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1 [the Listing of Impairments]?
(4) Is the person unable to perform his or her former occupation?
(5) Is the person unable to perform any other work within the economy?
An affirmative answer to any of the above questions leads either to the next question or, on steps three and five, to a finding of disability. A negative answer to any question, other than step three, leads to a determination of “not disabled.”

McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir. 1986).[2]

         The burden of proof rests on a claimant through Step Four. See Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1237-39 (11th Cir. 2004). A claimant establishes a prima facie case of qualifying disability once they have carried the burden of proof from Step One through Step Four. At Step Five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner, who must ...


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