United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
TERRI L. HORTON, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MAX O. COGBURN, Jr., District Judge.
THIS MATTER is before the court upon the parties' cross motions for summary judgment (##11, 13). Having considered the motions and reviewed the pleadings, the court enters the following findings, conclusions, and Order.
FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
I. Administrative History
Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and Social Security Disability Insurance benefits on May 21, 2011, alleging that she became disabled on February 1, 2011. Plaintiff's application was denied, and a hearing was held on January 4, 2013. On January 11, 2013, the ALJ issued a partially favorable decision, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled prior to December 9, 2012, but as of that date, Plaintiff was disabled as an individual of advanced age. R. at 22. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review and affirmed the ALJ's decision, making such decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff subsequently filed this action.
II. Factual Background
It appearing that the ALJ's findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence, the undersigned adopts and incorporates such findings herein as if fully set forth. Such findings are referenced in the substantive discussion which follows.
III. Standard of Review
The only issues on review are whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards and whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence. Richardson v. Perales , 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971); Hays v. Sullivan , 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). Review by a federal court is not de novo, Smith v. Schwieker , 795 F.2d 343, 345 (4th Cir. 1986); rather, inquiry is limited to whether there was "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, " Richardson v. Perales, supra . Even if the undersigned were to find that a preponderance of the evidence weighed against the Commissioner's decision, the Commissioner's decision would have to be affirmed if supported by substantial evidence. Hays v. Sullivan, supra .
IV. Substantial Evidence
The court has read the transcript of plaintiff's administrative hearing, closely read the decision of the ALJ, and reviewed the extensive exhibits contained in the administrative record. The issue is not whether a court might have reached a different conclusion had he been presented with the same testimony and evidentiary materials, but whether the decision of the administrative law judge is supported by substantial evidence. The undersigned finds that it is.
B. Sequential Evaluation
A five-step process, known as "sequential" review, is used by the Commissioner in determining whether a Social Security claimant is disabled. The Commissioner evaluates a disability claim under Title II pursuant to the following five-step analysis:
a. An individual who is working and engaging in substantial gainful activity will not be found to be "disabled" regardless of medical findings;
b. An individual who does not have a "severe impairment" will not be found to be disabled;
c. If an individual is not working and is suffering from a severe impairment that meets the durational requirement and that "meets or equals a listed impairment in Appendix 1" of Subpart P of Regulation No. 4, a finding of "disabled" will be made without consideration of vocational factors;
d. If, upon determining residual functional capacity, the Commissioner finds that an individual is capable of performing work he or she has done in the past, ...