United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
Cogburn Jr. United States District Judge
MATTER is before the Court on plaintiff's (#9)
and defendant's (#11) 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.
filed applications for a period of disability and disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Act and supplemental
security income under Title XVI of the Act on July 27, 2012,
alleging a period of disability with an onset date of
February 9, 2006 (Tr. 215, 219). The Commissioner denied
plaintiff's applications initially and upon
reconsideration. (Tr. 98-101, 103-106). At plaintiff's
request, Administrative Law Judge Valorie Stefanelli
(“the ALJ”) held a hearing on her claims on July
28, 2016. (Tr. 31-67). After considering the hearing
testimony and all of the evidence of record, the ALJ issued a
written decision finding that plaintiff was not disabled
within the meaning of the Act during the period from her
alleged onset date through December 31, 2011. (Tr. 13-30).
Plaintiff asked the Appeals Council to review the ALJ's
decision, but the Appeals Council denied that request in
February 2017, rendering the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-5, 170). Having
exhausted her administrative remedies, plaintiff commenced
this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial
review of that decision.
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).