United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
ANGELA D. GREENE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER OF REMAND
S. Cayer United States Magistrate Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff's
“Motion for Summary Judgment” (document #10) and
Defendant's “Motion for Summary Judgment”
(document #10), as well as the parties' briefs and
parties have consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and these Motions are now
ripe for disposition.
considered the written arguments, administrative record, and
applicable authority, the Court finds that Defendant's
decision to deny Plaintiff Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income benefits
(“SSI”) is not supported by substantial evidence.
Accordingly, the Court will grant Plaintiff's
Motion for Summary Judgment; deny Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment; reverse the
Commissioner's decision; and remand this matter
for further proceedings consistent with this Memorandum and
procedural history is not in dispute. The Court adopts the
procedural history as stated in the parties' briefs.
filed the present action on September 28, 2016. She assigns
error to the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)'s treatment
of opinions from Dr. Eric Peterson, her treating
psychiatrist, and to the formulation of her Residual
Functional Capacity (“RFC”). See
Plaintiff's “Memorandum ...” at 4-14
(document #11). The ALJ rejected Dr. Peterson's opinion
that Plaintiff had “marked” or disabling
difficulty with concentration, persistence or pace, and
instead found only moderate difficulty. (Tr. 26). The ALJ
failed to explain why he did not account for the moderate
difficulty in concentration, persistence or pace in his
formulation of Plaintiff's RFC. (Tr. 26-34). The
parties' cross-Motions are ripe for disposition.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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,
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390, 401
(1971); and (2) whether the Commissioner applied the correct
legal standards. Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453,
1456 (4th Cir. 1990); see also Hunter v. Sullivan,
993 F.2d 31, 34 (4th Cir. 1992) (per curiam). The
District Court does not review a final decision of the
Commissioner de novo. Smith v. Schweiker,
795 F.2d 343, 345 (4th Cir. 1986); King v. Califano,
599 F.2d 597, 599 (4th Cir. 1979); Blalock v.
Richardson, 483 F.2d 773, 775 (4th Cir. 1972).
Social Security Act provides, “[t]he findings of the
[Commissioner] as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive.” 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). In Smith v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1176, 1179
(4th Cir. 1986), quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 401 (1971), the Fourth Circuit defined
“substantial evidence” thus:
Substantial evidence has been defined as being “more
than a scintilla and do[ing] more than creat[ing] 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.”
See also 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 inconsistencies in the medical evidence”).
Fourth Circuit has long emphasized that it is not for a
reviewing court to weigh the evidence again, nor to
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner,
assuming the Commissioner's final decision is supported
by substantial evidence. Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d
at 1456 (4th Cir. 1990); see also Smith v.
Schweiker, 795 F.2d at 345; and Blalock v.
Richardson, 483 F.2d at 775. Indeed, this is true even
if the reviewing court disagrees with the outcome - so long
as there is “substantial evidence” in the record
to support the final decision below. Lester v.
Schweiker, 683 F.2d 838, 841 (4th Cir. 1982).