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Davis v. Berryhill

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

September 16, 2019

TERRY DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Max O. Cogburn Jr. United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 6), and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 11). Plaintiff, through counsel, seeks judicial review of an unfavorable administrative decision on his application for disability benefits under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2018). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED, and this matter is REVERSED and REMANDED for a decision consistent with this order.

         FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

         I. Administrative History

         On March 21, 2017, Plaintiff first filed an application for Social Security disability insurance benefits. (Tr. 58). Plaintiff's claim was denied initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. 58-69, 152-155). Plaintiff then requested and was granted a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 158-165). After a hearing, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's claim on May 3, 2018. (Tr. 58-69). Plaintiff then requested review from the Appeals Council. (Tr. 1-7). The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's May 3, 2018, decision the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”). (Id.). After the denial by the Appeals Council, 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. “Where 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). 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. Substantial Evidence

         A. Introduction

         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 ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence. The Court finds that it is not.

         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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