Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Merrill v. Saul

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

October 8, 2019

ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security Defendant.



         THIS 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.


         On 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”).[1] 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).


         It 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 follows.


         In 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).

         When 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).

         “A 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.


         The 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.


         The Act 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 ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.