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Ferguson v. Berryhill

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

May 6, 2019

THERESA FERGUSON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Defendant.

          ORDER

          Max O. Cogburn, Jr. United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the court on the parties' opposing Motions for Summary Judgment. (Doc. Nos. 11, 13). The matter is ripe for review. 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 applied 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 in October 2014 and February 2015, respectively. (Tr. 173, 175). She alleged she became unable to work on September 15, 2014. (Tr. 173, 175). Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 86, 96, 104). She requested a hearing before an ALJ, (Tr. 114), and a hearing was held before an ALJ on October 21, 2016. (Tr. 39). After considering the hearing testimony and the other relevant 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 the date of the decision, February 23, 2017. (Tr. 23). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request to review the ALJ's decision on May 30, 2018, making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final administrative decision. (Tr. 1). Having exhausted her administrative remedies, Plaintiff commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the decision.

         II. Factual Background

         It appearing that the ALJ's findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence, the court adopts and incorporates such findings herein as if fully set forth. Such findings are referenced in the substantive discussion which follows.

         III. 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).

         IV. Substantial Evidence

         A. Introduction

         The 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 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 ...


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