United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division
C. KEESLER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
MATTER IS BEFORE THE COURT on Plaintiff's
“Motion for Summary Judgment” (Document No. 11)
and Defendant's “Motion for Summary Judgment”
(Document No. 13). The parties have consented to Magistrate
Judge jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), and
these motions are ripe for disposition. After careful
consideration of the written arguments, the administrative
record, and applicable authority, the undersigned will direct
that Plaintiff's “Motion for Summary
Judgment” be denied; that Defendant's
“Motion For Summary Judgment” be
granted; and that the Commissioner's decision be
Billy Lewis Clark (“Plaintiff”), through counsel,
seeks judicial review of an unfavorable administrative
decision on his application for disability benefits.
(Document No. 1). On or about September 5, 2013, Plaintiff
filed an application for a period of disability for
supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1383, alleging an inability to
work due to a disabling condition beginning June 12, 2013.
(Transcript of the Record of Proceedings (“Tr.”)
13, 143). On December 2, 2015, Plaintiff amended his alleged
onset date to January 26, 2014. (Tr. 13, 160).
Commissioner of Social Security (the
“Commissioner” or “Defendant”) denied
Plaintiff's application initially on or about December 4,
2013, and again after reconsideration on February 21, 2014.
(Tr. 13, 74, 86). In its “Notice of Reconsideration,
” the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) included the following explanation of its
On your application you stated that you are disabled because
of right foot cyst, painful to stand and hands weak. The
medical evidence shows that your condition is not severe
enough to be considered disabling. We do not have sufficient
vocational information to determine whether you can perform
any of your past relevant work. However, based on the
evidence in file, we have determined that you can adjust to
other work. It has been decided, therefore, that you are not
disabled according to the Social Security Act.
filed a timely written request for a hearing on March 10,
2014. (Tr. 13, 96). On January 7, 2016, Plaintiff appeared
and testified at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge
Theresa R. Jenkins (the “ALJ”). (Tr. 13, 28-41).
In addition, Maria Vargas, a vocational expert
(“VE”), and Chad F. Brown, Plaintiff's
attorney, appeared at the hearing. Id.
issued an unfavorable decision on March 2, 2016, denying
Plaintiff's claim. (Tr. 13-21). On March 2, 2016,
Plaintiff filed a request for review of the ALJ's
decision, which was denied by the Appeals Council on June 8,
2017. (Tr. 1-3, 142). The ALJ decision became the final
decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's review request. (Tr. 1).
“Complaint” seeking a reversal of the ALJ's
determination was filed in this Court on August 8, 2017.
(Document No. 1). On October 27, 2017, the parties consented
to the Magistrate Judge jurisdiction in this matter.
(Document No. 10)
“Motion For Summary Judgment” (Document No. 11)
and Plaintiff's “Memorandum In Support of Motion
For Summary Judgment” (Document No. 12) were filed
December 12, 2017; and the “Commissioner's Motion
For Summary Judgment” (Document No. 13) and
“Memorandum Of Law In Support Of The Commissioner's
Motion For Summary Judgment” (Document No. 14) were
filed February 8, 2018. Plaintiff declined to file a reply
brief, and the time to do so has lapsed. See Local
Rule 7.2 (e).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and §
1383(c)(3), limits this Court's review of a final
decision of the Commissioner to: (1) whether substantial
evidence supports the Commissioner's decision; and (2)
whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards.
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971);
Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir.
Fourth Circuit has made clear that it is not for a reviewing
court to re-weigh the evidence or to substitute its judgment
for that of the Commissioner - so long as that decision is
supported by substantial evidence. Hays, 907 F.2d at
1456 (4th Cir. 1990); see also, Smith v.
Schweiker, 795 F.2d 343, 345 (4th Cir. 1986);
Hancock v. Astrue, 667 F.3d 470, 472 (4th Cir.
2012). “Substantial evidence has been defined as
‘more than a scintilla and [it] must do more than
create a suspicion of the existence of a fact to be
established. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable