United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
C. KEESLER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
MATTER IS BEFORE THE COURT on “Plaintiff's
Motion For Summary Judgment - Social Security”
(Document No. 12) and Defendant's “Motion For
Summary Judgment” (Document No. 13). The parties have
consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(c), and these motions are now ripe for
disposition. After careful consideration of the written
arguments, the administrative record, and applicable
authority, the undersigned will order that
“Plaintiff's Motion For Summary Judgment - Social
Security” be denied; that Defendant's
“Motion For Summary Judgment” be denied;
and that the Commissioner's decision be vacated
and this matter be remanded for further
Marilynne Mills (“Plaintiff”), through counsel,
seeks judicial review of an unfavorable administrative
decision on her application for disability benefits.
(Document No. 1). On or about July 22, 2013, Plaintiff filed
an application for a period of disability and disability
insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405; and on or about
July 29, 2013, she also filed an application for supplemental
security income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. § 1383. (Transcript of the Record of
Proceedings (“Tr.”) 15, 194-195, 196-201). Both
applications allege an inability to work due to a disabling
condition beginning June 1, 2013. Id. The
Commissioner of Social Security (the
“Commissioner” or “Defendant”) denied
Plaintiff's application initially on January 8, 2014, and
again after reconsideration on March 3, 2014. (Tr. 15,
128-140). In its “Notice of Reconsideration, ”
the Social Security Administration (“SSA”)
included the following explanation of its decision:
medical evidence shows that your condition is not severe
enough to be considered disabling.
We do not have sufficient vocational information to determine
whether you can perform any of your past relevant work.
However, based on the evidence in file, we have determined
that you can adjust to other work.
It has been decided, therefore, that you are not disabled
according to the Social Security Act.
(Tr. 134, 137).
filed a timely written request for a hearing on or about
March 18, 2014. (Tr. 15, 141-142). On July 30, 2015,
Plaintiff appeared and testified at a hearing before
Administrative Law Judge Nicolas R. Foster (the
“ALJ”). (Tr. 15, 31-55). In addition, Kathleen
Sampeck, a vocational expert (“VE”), and Megan
Dawson, Plaintiff's attorney, appeared at the hearing.
issued an unfavorable decision on August 24, 2015, denying
Plaintiff's claim. (Tr. 12-14, 15-26). On September 23,
2015, Plaintiff filed a request for review of the ALJ's
decision, which was denied by the Appeals Council on June 1,
2016. (Tr. 1-3, 10). The August 24, 2015 ALJ decision became
the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's review request. (Tr. 1).
“Complaint” seeking a reversal of the ALJ's
determination was filed in this Court on August 3, 2016.
(Document No. 1). This matter was originally assigned to the
Honorable Richard L. Voorhees, United States District Judge,
on August 4, 2016. On November 2, 2016, the parties filed
their “Joint Stipulation of Consent to Exercise
Jurisdiction by a United States Magistrate Judge”
(Document No. 11), and this matter was then reassigned to
Magistrate Judge David C. Keesler.
Motion For Summary Judgment - Social Security”
(Document No. 12) and “Plaintiff's Memorandum Of
Law In Support Of Motion For Summary Judgment”
(Document No. 12-1) were filed December 5, 2016; and
Defendant's “Motion For Summary Judgment”
(Document No. 13) and “Memorandum In Support Of The
Commissioner's Motion For Summary Judgment”
(Document No. 14) were filed January 31, 2017. Plaintiff has
declined to file a response/reply in further support of her
motion, and the time to do so has lapsed. See
“Social Security Briefing Order, ” Case No.
3:13-MC-198-FDW, (Document No. 1) (W.D. N.C. Dec. 23, 2013).
pending motions are now ripe for review and disposition.
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and §
1383(c)(3), limits this Court's review of a final
decision of the Commissioner to: (1) whether substantial
evidence supports the Commissioner's decision; and (2)
whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards.
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971);
Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir.
Fourth Circuit has made clear that it is not for a reviewing
court to re-weigh the evidence or to substitute its judgment
for that of the Commissioner - so long as that decision is
supported by substantial evidence. Hays, 907 F.2d at
1456 (4th Cir. 1990); see also, Smith v.
Schweiker, 795 F.2d 343, 345 (4th Cir. 1986);
Hancock v. Astrue, 667 F.3d 470, 472 (4th Cir.
2012). “Substantial evidence has been defined as
‘more than a scintilla and [it] must do more than
create a suspicion of the existence of a fact to be
established. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.'” Smith v. Heckler, 782 F.2d
1176, 1179 (4th Cir. 1986) (quoting Perales, 402
U.S. at 401).
it is the duty of the Commissioner, not the courts, to make
findings of fact and to resolve conflicts in the evidence.
Hays, 907 F.2d at 1456; King v. Califano,
599 F.2d 597, 599 (4th Cir. 1979) (“This court does not
find facts or try the case de novo when reviewing disability
determinations.”); Seacrist v. Weinberger, 538
F.2d 1054, 1056-57 (4th Cir. 1976) (“We note that it is
the responsibility of the [Commissioner] and not the courts
to reconcile inconsistences in the medical evidence, and that
it is the claimant who bears the risk of
nonpersuasion.”). Indeed, so long as the
Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial
evidence, it must be affirmed even if the reviewing court
disagrees with the final outcome. Lester v.
Schweiker, 683 F.2d 838, 841 (4th Cir. 1982).