United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
ANGELA D. DALTON, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Defendant.
COGBURN JR. UNITED STATES DISTRUCT JUDGE
MATTER is before the court on plaintiff's (#9)
and defendant's (#13) cross Motions for Summary Judgment.
The matter is ripe for review. Having carefully considered
each Motion for Summary Judgment, the court enters the
following findings and Order.
January 2014, Plaintiff filed applications for a Period of
Disability, Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”), and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”), alleging disability since September 28,
2011, due to bipolar disorder, PTSD, severe anxiety,
borderline agoraphobia, depression, left leg reattachment
pain, left leg shorter than right, bilateral thoracic outlet
syndrome, and fibromyalgia. (Tr. 19, 225). The applications
were denied initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 19). A
hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Charles R.
Howard (“the ALJ”) on November 4, 2015 (Tr. 19,
39-73), and on January 21, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision
denying the claims. (Tr. 19-32). On November 17, 2016, the
Appeals Council denied review (Tr. 1-4), thereby rendering
the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. Plaintiff timely commenced the instant action
for judicial review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
court adopts and incorporates the ALJ's factual findings
herein as if fully set forth. Such findings are referenced in
the substantive discussion which follows.
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. The Fourth Circuit has explained substantial
evidence review as follows:
the district court reviews the record to ensure that the
ALJ's factual findings are supported by substantial
evidence and that its legal findings are free of error. If
the reviewing court decides that the ALJ's decision is
not supported by substantial evidence, it may affirm, modify,
or reverse the ALJ's ruling with or without remanding the
cause for a rehearing. A necessary predicate to engaging in
substantial evidence review is a record of the basis for the
ALJ's ruling. The record should include a discussion of
which evidence the ALJ found credible and why, and specific
application of the pertinent legal requirements to the record
evidence. If the reviewing court has no way of evaluating the
basis for the ALJ's decision, then the proper course,
except in rare circumstances, is to remand to the agency for
additional investigation or explanation.
Radford v. Colvin, 734 F.3d 288, 295 (4th Cir. 2013)
(internal citations and quotations omitted).
court has read the transcript of plaintiff's
administrative hearing, closely read the decision of the ALJ,
and reviewed the relevant exhibits contained in the extensive
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 administrative law judge is
supported by substantial evidence. For the reasons outlined
below, the court finds that the ALJ's decision was based
on substantial evidence.