United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
ROBERT W. BARNES, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion For
Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 11) and Defendant's Motion For
Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 13). This case has been assigned
to the undersigned United States District Judge. After
careful consideration of the written arguments, the
administrative record, and applicable authority, the Court
GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Plaintiff's Motion For
Summary Judgment; DENIES Defendant's Motion For Summary
Judgment; and REMANDS the Commissioner's decision.
Robert W. Barnes (“Plaintiff”), through counsel,
seeks judicial review of an unfavorable administrative
decision on his application for disability benefits. (Doc.
No. 1). On August 2, 2011, Plaintiff filed an application for
a supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1383, alleging an inability to
work due to a disabling condition beginning July 1, 2007.
(Transcript of the Record of Proceedings (“Tr.”)
21, 218-224). The Commissioner of Social Security (the
“Commissioner” or “Defendant”) denied
Plaintiff's application initially on January 9, 2012, and
again after reconsideration on May 10, 2013. (Tr. 21,
156-160, 164-168). In its “Notice of Reconsideration,
” the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) included the following explanation of its
The medical evidence shows that your condition is not severe
enough to be considered disabling.
In order to evaluate the claim, specific medical evidence was
needed. However, we were unable to obtain this evidence
because the examination we scheduled was not completed.
It has been decided, therefore, that you are not disabled
according to the Social Security Act.
filed a timely written request for a hearing on May 14, 2013.
(Tr. 21, 169-171). On November 7, 2014, Plaintiff appeared
and testified at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge
Wendell M. Sims (“ALJ”). (Tr. 21, 42-81). In
addition, Robert E. Brabham, Jr., a vocational expert
(“VE”), and Daniel A. Bridgman, Plaintiff's
attorney, appeared at the hearing. Id.
issued an unfavorable decision on January 28, 2015, denying
Plaintiff's claim. (Tr. 21-34). On or about February 16,
2015, Plaintiff filed a request for review of the ALJ's
decision, which was denied by the Appeals Council on December
6, 2015. (Tr. 9-11, 15). The January 28, 2015 ALJ decision
thus became the final decision of the Commissioner when the
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's review request. (Tr.
“Complaint” seeking a reversal of the ALJ's
determination was filed in this Court on January 28, 2016.
(Doc. No. 1). Plaintiff's Motion For Summary Judgment
(Doc. No. 11) and “Plaintiff's Memorandum In
Support Of Motion For Summary Judgment” (Doc. No. 12)
were filed June 9, 2016; and Defendant's Motion For
Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 13) and “Memorandum In
Support Of Defendant's Motion For Summary Judgment”
(Doc. No. 14) were filed August 9, 2016.
pending motions are now 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; 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 ...