Hildebrant v. Commissioner of Social Security

Filing 15

ORDER denying 9 Motion for Summary Judgment; granting 13 Defendant's Social Security Brief; and the Commissioner's decision is affirmed. Signed by Senior Judge Graham Mullen on 6/3/3024. (kab)

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA CHARLOTTE DIVISION CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:23-CV-00525-GCM JESSICA HILDEBRANT, Plaintiff, v. ORDER COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant. THIS MATTER is before the Court upon Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 9) and Commissioner’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 13). After carefully reviewing those motions, supporting memoranda, and the pleadings, the Court enters the following findings, conclusions, and Order. The Court finds that Defendant’s decision to deny Plaintiff Social Security benefits is supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the Court will DENY Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment; GRANT Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment; and AFFIRM the Commissioner’s decision. I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY The Court adopts the procedural history as stated in the parties’ briefs. Plaintiff filed the present action on August 21, 2023. She contends that the Administrative Law Judge erred by failing to “fully account for Hildebrant’s limitation in interaction with others in the RFC or explain why not.” (Doc. No. 10 at 6.) II. DISCUSSION The 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, Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390, 401 (1971); and (2) whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards. Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990); see also Hunter v. Sullivan, 993 F.2d 31, 34 (4th Cir. 1992) (per curiam). The District Court does not review a final decision of the Commissioner de novo. Smith v. Schweiker, 795 F.2d 343, 345 (4th Cir. 1986); King v. Califano, 599 F.2d 597, 599 (4th Cir. 1979); Blalock v. Richardson, 483 F.2d 773, 775 (4th Cir. 1972). As the Social Security Act provides, “[t]he findings of the [Commissioner] as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). In Smith v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1176, 1179 (4th Cir. 1986), quoting Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401, the Fourth Circuit defined “substantial evidence” thus: Substantial evidence has been defined as being “more than a scintilla and do[ing] more than creat[ing] 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. See also 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 inconsistencies in the medical evidence”). The Fourth Circuit has long emphasized that it is not for a reviewing court to weigh the evidence again, nor to substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner, assuming the Commissioner’s final decision is supported by substantial evidence. Hays, 907 F.2d at 1456; see also Smith, 795 F.2d at 345; Blalock, 483 F.2d at 775. Indeed, this is true even if the reviewing 2 court disagrees with the outcome – so long as there is “substantial evidence” in the record to support the final decision below. Lester v. Schweiker, 683 F.2d 838, 841 (4th Cir. 1982). The question before the ALJ was whether Ms. Hildebrant became disabled at any time. The Court has carefully reviewed the record, the authorities, and the parties’ arguments. The ALJ applied the correct legal standards and her conclusion that Plaintiff was not disabled is supported by substantial evidence. III. ORDER NOW THEREFORE IT IS ORDERED: 1. Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED; Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED; and the Commissioner’s decision is AFFIRMED. 2. The Clerk is directed to send copies of this Memorandum and Order to counsel for the parties. 3

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