United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
COGBURN JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MATTER is before the court on plaintiff's (#15)
and defendant's (#22) cross Motions for Summary Judgment.
The matter is ripe for review. Having carefully considered
each motion and reviewed the pleadings, the court enters the
following findings and Order.
August 2010, plaintiff filed an application for a Period of
Disability and Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”), alleging a disability that commenced on
July 23, 2010. (Tr. 126). Plaintiff's claim was denied
initially and upon reconsideration, and on February 1, 2012,
Administrative Law Judge Charles R. Howard (“the
ALJ”) issued a written decision denying plaintiff's
claim on the basis that he was not disabled within the
meaning of the Act. (Tr. 13, 126). On June 25, 2012, the
Appeals Council dismissed plaintiff's request for review
as untimely. (Tr. 143-44).
February 16, 2012, plaintiff filed another application for a
Period of Disability and DIB, alleging disability since July
23, 2010. (Tr. 183). The claim was denied initially and upon
reconsideration. (Tr. 183). The ALJ denied the claim in a
decision issued on December 12, 2013 (Tr. 183-95). On April
9, 2015, the Appeals Council remanded the case to the ALJ for
further proceedings. (Tr. 200-02). On remand, a hearing was
held before the ALJ on August 27, 2015. (Tr. 13, 32-47). On
September 14, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision denying the
claim. (Tr. 13-25). On August 25, 2016, the Appeals Council
denied review, thereby rendering the ALJ's decision the
final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-3). 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.
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).