United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
FRANK D. WHITNEY, District Judge.
THIS MATTER is before the Court upon Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc No. 9), filed August 11, 2014, and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 11), filed October 7, 2014. Plaintiff seeks judicial review of an unfavorable administrative decision on his application for disability benefits.
Having reviewed and considered the written arguments, administrative record, and applicable authority, and for the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings is DENIED, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED, and the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.
I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
Plaintiff filed a Title II application for Disability Insurance Benefits and a Title XVI application for Supplemental Security Income on March 22, 2010, with an amended alleged onset date of May 14, 2010. (Tr. 46; 69). His claim was initially denied on March 23, 2011, (Tr. 123), and was denied upon reconsideration on June 28, 2011. (Tr. 132). At Mr. McCall's request, an Administrative Law Judge ("the ALJ"), Anne Paschall, held a hearing on July 17, 2012. (Tr. 14). On August 29, 2012, the ALJ issued a finding that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (Tr. 11). Plaintiff timely requested review by the Appeals Council, which was denied on December 31, 2013, rendering the ALJ's August 29 decision the Commissioner's final decision in this case. (Tr. 1-5).
Plaintiff timely filed this action on March 7, 2014, (Doc. No. 1), and the parties' Motions for Judgment on the Pleadings and Summary Judgment are now ripe for review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner in social security cases is authorized pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), and is limited to consideration of (1) whether substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's decision and (2) whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standard. Hays v. Sullivan , 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)); Richardson v. Perales , 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971); Coffman v. Bowen , 829 F.2d 514, 517 (4th Cir. 1987)). Substantial evidence has be defined as "more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Perales , 402 U.S. at 401 (quoting Consolidated Edison v. NLRB , 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)); Mastro v. Apfel , 270 F.3d 171, 176 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Perales , 402 U.S. at 401). In reviewing for substantial evidence, the Court may not reweigh the evidence, try the case de novo, make credibility determinations, or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. See Hancock v. Astrue , 667 F.3d 470, 472 (4th Cir. 2012). The ALJ, and not the Court, has the ultimate responsibility for weighing the evidence and resolving any conflicts. Hays , 907 F.2d at 1456.
The question before the ALJ was whether Plaintiff was "disabled" under the Social Security Act ("the Act") between May 14, 2010 and the date of the ALJ's decision. Plaintiff has the burden of proving he was disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act in ordered to be entitled to benefits. Bowen v. Yuckert , 482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5 (1987).
On August 29, 2012, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not "disabled" any time between May 14, 2010, and the date of her decision. (Tr. 14-22). The Act provides a five-step sequential evaluation process ("SEP") for determining whether a person is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. If an individual is determined to be disabled or not disabled at a step, a decision is made and the adjudicator does not proceed to the next step. The five steps are: (1) whether the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) whether the claimant has a severe medically determinable physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments meets or equals one of The Listings in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, and meets the duration requirement; (4) whether the claimant has the residual function capacity ("RFC") to perform the requirements of his past relevant work; and (5) whether the claimant is able to do any other work, considering his RFC, age, education and work experience. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i-v).
In this case, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled under the fifth step of the evaluation process. (Tr. 22). The ALJ concluded that "considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, the claimant is capable of making a successful adjustment to other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy." (Id.).
On appeal, Plaintiff presents two assignments of error: (1) that the ALJ failed to substantively consider the Medicaid decision of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services ("NCDHHS") finding Plaintiff disabled; and (2) that the ALJ's listing analysis was deficient. (Doc. No. 10 at 1). However, a review of the record ...