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Hall v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

March 23, 2018

DEBRA HALL, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER OF REMAND

          Max O. Cogburn Jr. United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court upon plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment 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.

         FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

         I. Administrative History

         Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits. Plaintiff's 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. Plaintiff's request for review was denied, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”). Thereafter, plaintiff timely filed this action.

         II. Standard of Review

         This Court's review of the Commissioner's determination is limited to evaluating whether the findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether the correct law was applied. Mascio v. Colvin, 780 F.3d 632, 634 (4th Cir. 2015). “Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Johnson v. Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650, 653 (4th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks omitted). A reviewing court does not reweigh evidence or make credibility determinations in evaluating whether a decision is supported by substantial evidence; “[w]here conflicting evidence allows reasonable minds to differ as to whether a claimant is disabled, ” this Court will defer to the Commissioner's decision. Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, the 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).

         III. Discussion

         A. Introduction

         The 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 he been presented with the same testimony and evidentiary materials, but whether the decision of the administrative law judge is supported by substantial evidence.

         B. Sequential Evaluation

         A 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 five-step analysis:

a. An individual who is working and engaging in substantial gainful activity will not be found to be “disabled” ...

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