United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
M. DiGirolamo United States Magistrate Judge.
5, 2016, Plaintiff Rakesh Khandelwal filed a complaint in
this Court under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking review of
the Commissioner's final decision denying his request for
waiver of recovery of an overpayment because the Commissioner
found that he was not without fault in causing the
overpayment. Upon the parties' consent, this case was
transferred to a United States Magistrate Judge for final
disposition and entry of judgment. The case subsequently was
reassigned to the undersigned. The parties have briefed the
issues, and the matter is now fully submitted. Before the
Court are Plaintiff's revised Motion for Summary Judgment
(ECF No. 38) and Supplemental Memorandum (ECF No. 42),
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 48), and
Plaintiff's Reply (ECF No. 49). Plaintiff contends that
substantial evidence does not support the Commissioner's
decision. No hearing is necessary. L.R. 105.6. For the
reasons that follow, this matter is remanded for further
Standard of Review
Court reviews an ALJ's decision to determine whether the
ALJ applied the correct legal standards and whether the
factual findings are supported by substantial evidence.
See Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589 (4th Cir.
1996). In other words, the issue before the Court “is
not whether [Plaintiff] is disabled, but whether the
ALJ's finding that [Plaintiff] is not disabled is
supported by substantial evidence and was reached based upon
a correct application of the relevant law.”
Id. The Court's review is deferential, as
“[t]he findings of the Commissioner of Social Security
as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall
be conclusive.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Under this
standard, substantial evidence is less than a preponderance
but is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate
to support the Commissioner's conclusion. See Hancock
v. Astrue, 667 F.3d 470, 472 (4th Cir. 2012); see
also Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct.
1420, 1427 (1971).
evaluating the evidence in an appeal of a denial of benefits,
the court does “not conduct a de novo review
of the evidence, ” Smith v. Schweiker, 795
F.2d 343, 345 (4th Cir. 1986), or undertake to reweigh
conflicting evidence, make credibility determinations, or
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner.
Hancock, 667 F.3d at 472. Rather, “[t]he duty
to resolve conflicts in the evidence rests with the ALJ, not
with a reviewing court.” Smith v. Chater, 99
F.3d 635, 638 (4th Cir. 1996). When conflicting evidence
allows reasonable minds to differ as to whether a claimant is
disabled, the responsibility for that decision falls on the
ALJ. Johnson v. Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650, 653 (4th
Cir. 2005) (per curiam).
maintains that the ALJ failed to identify which evidence he
found credible and why, but instead stated that he accepted
Plaintiff's allegations “as though the
claimant's allegations are accurate.” Pl.'s
Suppl. Mem. 2, ECF No. 42. Plaintiff argues that, if the ALJ
had taken Plaintiff's allegations as accurate, he would
have found that Plaintiff had relied upon misinformation, at
which point the overpayment would have been waived.
Id. Thus, Plaintiff asserts that this case
“should be remanded to allow the ALJ to explain why he
first stated that he would accept [Plaintiff's]
allegations as accurate and then chose not to” do so,
and to explain “which of [Plaintiff's] allegations
he found were not credible and why.” Id. at 7.
remand is appropriate. “A necessary predicate to
engaging in substantial evidence review is a record of the
basis for the ALJ's ruling. The 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.” Radford v. Colvin,
734 F.3d 288, 295 (4th Cir. 2013) (citation omitted).
“If the reviewing court has no way of evaluating the
basis for the ALJ's decision, then ‘the proper
course, except in rare circumstances, is to remand to the
agency for additional investigation or
explanation.'” Id. (quoting Fla. Power
& Light Co. v. Lorion, 470 U.S. 729, 744 (1985)).
When credibility is a critical factor in determining whether
a claimant was without fault, the ALJ is required to state
explicitly whether he believed the witness' testimony.
Valente v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.,
733 F.2d 1037, 1044 (2d Cir. 1984); see Holder v.
Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., No. SAG-15-666, 2016 WL
447832, at *2-3 (D. Md. Feb. 4, 2016). Because “the ALJ
fails to explain how he could believe [Plaintiff] to be
credible and at the same time find him to be at fault,
” Fout v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No.
1:07CV108, 2009 WL 20556, at *7 (N.D. W.Va. Jan. 2, 2009),
remand is warranted in this case.
foregoing reasons, Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 48) is DENIED.
Plaintiff's revised Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No.
38) is DENIED. Defendant's final
decision is REVERSED under the fourth
sentence of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). This matter is
REMANDED for further proceedings consistent
with this opinion. A separate order will issue.
 On January 23, 2017, Nancy A.
Berryhill became the Acting Commissioner of Social Security.
She is, therefore, substituted as Defendant in this matter.
See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Fed.R.Civ.P.
 The Fourth Circuit has noted that,
“in social security cases, we often use summary
judgment as a procedural means to place the district court in
position to fulfill its appellate function, not as a device
to avoid nontriable issues under usual Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 56 standards.” Walls v. Barnhart,
296 F.3d 287, 289 n.2 (4th Cir. 2002). For example,
“the denial of summary judgment accompanied by a remand
to the Commissioner results ...