United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
COGBURN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion
for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 9) and Defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 11). Having considered the
motions, the Court enters the following Order.
December 5, 2014, Plaintiff Joshua Merrill filed applications
for disability insurance benefits under Title II, and
supplemental security income under Title XVI, of the Social
Security Act (the “Act”). In both applications,
Plaintiff alleged he became disabled beginning April 1, 2009.
(Tr. 16). Plaintiff's claims were denied initially and
upon reconsideration, so he filed a written request for a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). (Id.). On August 21, 2017, ALJ
Alice Jordan held a hearing for de novo consideration of
Plaintiff's claims. (Id.). Thereafter, on
February 14, 2018, the ALJ issued a decision concluding
Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act.
(Tr. 16-32). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review on December 17, 2018, rendering the
ALJ's decision a final decision reviewable by this Court.
(Tr. 1). Plaintiff exhausted all available administrative
remedies, so this case is ripe for judicial review, pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
appears that the ALJ's factual findings are supported by
substantial evidence. As such, this Court adopts and
incorporates those findings herein as fully set forth. The
findings are referenced in the substantive discussion that
STANDARD OF REVIEW
considering cross-motions for summary judgment, this Court
“examines each motion separately, employing the
familiar standard” provided by Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 56. Desmond v. PNGI Charles Town Gaming,
630 F.3d 351, 354 (4th Cir. 2011). Thus, each motion is
reviewed “on its own merits ‘to determine whether
either of the parties deserve judgment as a matter of
law.'” Rossignol v. Voorhaar, 316 F.3d
516, 523 (4th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted).
reviewing a disability determination, the Court “is
required to uphold the determination when an ALJ has applied
correct legal standards and the ALJ's factual findings
are supported by substantial evidence.” Bird v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 699 F.3d 337, 340 (4th
Cir. 2012). Courts do not conduct de novo review of the
evidence. See Smith v. Schweiker, 795 F.2d 343, 345
(4th Cir. 1986). Instead, our inquiry is limited to whether
there is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Hancock v. Astrue, 667 F.3d 470, 472 (4th Cir. 2012)
(quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401
(1971)). It “consists of more than a mere scintilla
evidence but may be less than a preponderance.”
Id. The Court will not “reweigh conflicting
evidence, make credibility determinations, or substitute
[its] judgment for that of the ALJ.” Id.
(alterations omitted). Put simply, “[w]here conflicting
evidence allows reasonable minds to differ as to whether a
claimant is disabled, the responsibility for that decision
falls on the ALJ.” Id. (alterations omitted).
necessary predicate to engaging in substantial evidence
review is a record of the basis for the ALJ's
ruling.” Radford v. Colvin, 734 F.3d 288, 295
(4th Cir. 2013). Thus, “[t]he 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.” Id. If the Court has
“no way of evaluating the basis for the ALJ's
decision, ‘the proper course, except in rare
circumstances, is to remand to the agency for additional
investigation or explanation.'” Id.
(quoting Florida Power & Light v. Lorion, 470
U.S. 729, 744 (1985)); see Brown v. Colvin, 639
Fed.Appx. 921, 922 (4th Cir. 2016) (recognizing courts do not
“min[e] facts from the [administrative] record to
support the ALJ's decisions”). This ensures the ALJ
can “adequately explain his reasoning . . . in the
first instance.” Radford, 734 F.3d at 296.
Court has reviewed the ALJ's decision and the
administrative record. The issue is not whether the Court
might have reached a different conclusion had it been
presented with the same testimony and evidence, but whether
the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence.
For reasons explained herein, the Court finds that it is.
provides that “an individual shall be considered to be
disabled . . . if he is unable to engage in any substantial
gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable
physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result
in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a
continuous period of not less than twelve months.” 42
U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Commissioner uses ...