United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
SHARON LOVELACE BLACKBURN, District Judge.
Plaintiff James Morris Aldridge ("plaintiff") appeals the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). Upon review of the record, the submissions of the parties, and the relevant law, the court is of the opinion that the Commissioner's decision is due to be affirmed.
Plaintiff initially filed an application for a period of disability and DIB on June 16, 2010, alleging a disability onset date of April 17, 2010, (R. 56, 97), due to degenerative disc disease in his shoulders and knees, diverticulitis, depression/anxiety, and hearing loss, (R. 142). After the Social Security Administration ["SSA"] denied his application, he requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ["ALJ"], which was held on November 23, 2011. (R. 37.) After the hearing, the ALJ found that plaintiff did not have an impairment or a combination of impairments listed in, or medically equivalent to one listed in, the Listing of Impairments. (R. 28); see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). The ALJ also found that plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ["RFC"] to perform medium work with the exceptions of performing assembly line work and engaging in "more than occasional interpersonal contact with the public and coworkers, " (r. 29), and that there are "jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that [plaintiff] can perform, " (r. 32). In light of these findings, the ALJ found that Mr. Aldridge was not disabled from April 17, 2010 through the date of the decision, December 15, 2011, and denied his request for a period of disability and DIB. (R. 33.)
The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request to review the ALJ's decision. (R. 1.) Therefore, the ALJ's decision is the final decision of the Commissioner. ( Id. )
Following denial of review by the Appeals Council, plaintiff filed an appeal in this court. (Doc. 1.) He requests that this court reverse the Commissioner's decision or, in the alternative, remand the case pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for further consideration. (Doc. 7 at 11.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
A. APPEAL OF THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION
In reviewing claims brought under the Social Security Act, this court "is limited to an inquiry into whether there is substantial evidence to support the findings of the Commissioner, and whether the correct legal standards were applied." Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1221 (11th Cir. 2002); see also Lamb v. Bowen, 847 F.2d 698, 701 (11th Cir. 1988). The court gives deference to factual findings and reviews questions of law de novo. Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145 (11th Cir. 1991). The court "may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute [its] judgment for that of the [Commissioner]; rather [it] must scrutinize the record as a whole to determine if the decision reached is reasonable and supported by substantial evidence." Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990) (quoting Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983)) (internal quotations and other citation omitted). "The Commissioner's factual findings are conclusive if supported by substantial evidence." Wilson, 284 F.3d at 1221 (citing Martin, 894 F.2d at 1529; Allen v. Bowen, 816 F.2d 600, 602 (11th Cir. 1987)). "Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011) (internal quotations and citations omitted)
The court reviews the Commissioner's conclusions of law de novo. Cornelius, 936 F.2d at 1145. "[N]o... presumption of validity attaches to the [Commissioner's] conclusions of law." Wiggins v. Schweiker, 679 F.2d 1387, 1389 (11th Cir. 1982).
B. REQUEST FOR REMAND
"Section 405(g) permits a district court to remand an application for benefits to the Commissioner... by two methods, which are commonly denominated sentence four remands' and sentence six remands, ' each of which remedies a separate problem." Ingram v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 496 F.3d 1253, 1261 (11th Cir. 2007) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)). "The fourth sentence of section 405(g) provides the federal court power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing.'" Id. (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)).
A. THE FIVE-STEP ...