United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division
NATALIE S. COONEY, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
C. Mullen United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court upon Plaintiffs Motion
for Judgment on the Pleadings and the Commissioner's
Motion for Summary Judgment. Having carefully considered such
motions and reviewed the pleadings, the Court enters the
following findings, conclusions, and Order.
filed an application for a period of disability and
Disability Insurance Benefits. Plaintiffs claim was denied
both initially and on reconsideration; thereafter, Plaintiff
requested and was granted a hearing before an administrative
law judge (“ALJ”). After conducting a hearing,
the ALJ issued a decision which was unfavorable to Plaintiff,
from which Plaintiff appealed to the Appeals Council.
Plaintiffs request for review was denied and the ALJ's
decision affirmed by the Appeals Council, making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security (“Commissioner”). Thereafter,
Plaintiff timely filed this action.
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
Standard of Review
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.
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 it been presented
with the same testimony and evidentiary materials, but
whether the decision of the ALJ is supported by substantial
evidence. The undersigned finds that it is.
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
(1) Whether the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful
(2) Whether the claimant has a severe medically determinable
impairment, or a combination of impairments that is severe;
(3) Whether the claimant's impairment or combination of
impairments meets or medically equals one of the Listings in
20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1;
(4) Whether the claimant has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform the requirements of his ...