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. 10)
and Defendant's “Motion for Summary Judgment”
(Document No. 12). 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 and “Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment” be granted; and
that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed.
Danny Glenn Hendrix (“Plaintiff”), through
counsel, seeks judicial review of an unfavorable
administrative decision on his application for disability
benefits. (Document No. 1). On or about March 6, 2015,
Plaintiff filed applications for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405, and 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 January 1, 2013.
(Transcript of the Record of Proceedings (“Tr.”)
15). The Commissioner of Social Security (the
“Commissioner” or “Defendant”) denied
Plaintiff's application initially on April 29, 2015, and
again after reconsideration on September 14, 2015. (Tr. 15,
122, 133). In its “Notice of Reconsideration, ”
the Social Security Administration (“SSA”)
included the following explanation of its decision:
The medical evidence shows your condition results in some
limitations in your ability to perform work related
activities. We have determined that your condition is not
severe enough to keep you from working. We considered the
medical and other information, your age and education in
determining how your condition affects your ability to work.
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.
filed a timely written request for a hearing on November 16,
2015. (Tr. 15, 145). On October 2, 2017, Plaintiff appeared
and testified at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge
Mary Ryerse (the “ALJ”). (Tr. 15, 32-62). In
addition, Kentrell Pittman, a vocational expert
(“VE”), and Fred D. Pike, Plaintiff's
attorney, appeared at the hearing. Id.
issued an unfavorable decision on December 21, 2017, denying
Plaintiff's claim. (Tr. 15-27). On February 20, 2018,
Plaintiff filed a request for review of the ALJ's
decision, which was denied by the Appeals Council on August
9, 2018. (Tr. 1-3, 200). 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 September 25, 2018.
(Document No. 1). Following the parties' “Joint
Stipulation Of Consent…” (Document No. 11), this
matter was re-assigned to the undersigned Magistrate Judge on
February 14, 2019.
“Motion for Summary Judgment” (Document No. 10)
and “Plaintiff's Memorandum In Support Of [His]
Motion For Summary Judgment In His Social Security
Appeal” (Document No. 9) were filed on February 11,
2019; and the “Commissioner's Motion For Summary
Judgment” (Document No. 12) and “Memorandum Of
Law In Support Of The Commissioner's Motion For Summary
Judgment” (Document No. 13) were filed on April 5,
2019. Plaintiff declined to file a reply brief, and the time
to do so has lapsed. See Local Rule 7.2 (e).
on the foregoing, the pending motions are now ripe for review
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
mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.'” Smith v. Heckler, 782 F.2d
1176, 1179 (4th Cir. 1986) (quoting Perales, 402
U.S. at 401).
it is the duty of the Commissioner, not the courts, to make
findings of fact and to resolve conflicts in the evidence.
Hays, 907 F.2d at 1456; King v. Califano,
599 F.2d 597, 599 (4th Cir. 1979) (“This court does not
find facts or try the case de novo when reviewing disability
determinations.”); Seacrist v. Weinberger, 538
F.2d 1054, 1056-57 (4th Cir. 1976) (“We note that it is
the responsibility of the [Commissioner] and not the courts
to reconcile inconsistences in the medical evidence, and that
it is the claimant who bears the risk of
nonpersuasion.”). Indeed, so long as the
Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial
evidence, it must be affirmed even if the reviewing court
disagrees with the final outcome. Lester v.
Schweiker, 683 F.2d 838, 841 (4th Cir. 1982).