United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
ORDER OF REMAND
COGBURN, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MATTER is before the court on plaintiff's (#9)
and defendant's (#15) cross Motions for Summary Judgment,
as well as plaintiff's Response to defendant's motion
(#17). The matter is ripe for review. Having carefully
considered each motion and reviewed the pleadings, the court
enters the following findings and Order.
March 11, 2013, plaintiff applied for supplementary security
income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, alleging a
disability that commenced on January 9, 2012. (Tr. 179).
Plaintiff's claim was denied initially on August 8, 2013,
and upon reconsideration on October 14, 2013. (Tr. 100; Tr.
107). On December 9, 2013, plaintiff requested a hearing
before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (Tr.
111). The hearing was held on November 21, 2014. (Tr. 34).
Plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified at
the hearing, along with a vocational expert. (Tr. 34-58). A
supplemental hearing was held on April 9, 2015. (Tr. 59). On
May 29, 2015, an ALJ issued a written decision denying
plaintiff's claim on the basis that she was not disabled
within the meaning of the Act. (Tr. 11-23). On July 24, 2015,
plaintiff requested that the Appeals Council review the
ALJ's decision; the Council denied plaintiff's
request on December 7, 2016, rendering the ALJ's decision
the final decision of defendant. (Tr. 1, 31). Plaintiff
timely commenced the instant action for judicial review,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), 1383(c)(3).
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
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. The court finds that the
ALJ's decision was, in part, not based on substantial
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 ...