United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA, District Judge.
Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c), plaintiff John Daniel Patterson seeks review of the decision by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying his claim for supplemental security income. After careful review, the Court affirms the Commissioner's decision.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
The scope of review in this matter is limited. "When, as in this case, the ALJ denies benefits and the Appeals Council denies review, " the Court "review[s] the ALJ's factual findings with deference' and her legal conclusions with close scrutiny.'" Riggs v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 522 Fed.Appx. 509, 510-11 (11th Cir. 2013) (quoting Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th Cir. 2001)).
The Court must determine whether there is substantial evidence in the record to support the ALJ's findings. "Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Crawford v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004). In making this evaluation, the Court may not "reweigh the evidence or decide the facts anew, " and the Court must "defer to the ALJ's decision if it is supported by substantial evidence even if the evidence may preponderate against it." Gaskin v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 533 Fed.Appx. 929, 930 (11th Cir. 2013).
With respect to the ALJ's legal conclusions, the Court must determine whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards. If the Court finds an error in the ALJ's application of the law, or if the Court finds that the ALJ failed to provide sufficient reasoning to demonstrate that the ALJ conducted a proper legal analysis, then the Court must reverse the ALJ's decision. Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991).
PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
Mr. Patterson applied for social security income benefits on October 27, 2009. (R. 23, 161). He alleges that that his disability began on December 20, 2006. (R. 23, 161). The Social Security Administration initially denied his application on January 27, 2010. (R. 23, 91). Mr. Patterson filed a written request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on February 19, 2010. (R. 23). The ALJ held a hearing on July 22, 2011. (R. 23, 45-90, 115-117).
Mr. Patterson was 23 years old when he filed his application for benefits. (Doc. 11, p. 2; R. 161). He had a high school education, was able to communicate in English, and did not have past relevant work. (R. 36, 52-53). On August 26, 2011, the ALJ denied Mr. Patterson's request for disability benefits. The ALJ found that Mr. Patterson had not engaged in "gainful activity since October 27, 2009, the application date." (R. 25). The ALJ concluded that Mr. Patterson "has the following severe impairment: a major depressive disorder." (R. 25). The ALJ also noted that Mr. Patterson has the following non-severe impairments: mild gastritis, a history of obstructive sleep apnea, and internal knee derangement status post arthroscopic repair. (R. 25). However, the ALJ stated, "the record shows that [Mr. Patterson's] mild gastritis is controlled by medication... and his history of sleep apnea and internal knee derangement status does not result in any work-related limitations." (R. 25). Further, the ALJ found that Mr. Patterson's pain syndrome "is not a medically determinable impairment." (R. 25).
The ALJ determined that Mr. Patterson does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals a listing in the Regulations. (R. 30). The ALJ then concluded that Mr. Patterson has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to "perform a full range of work at all exertional levels" and that he could "perform routine repetitive tasks involving no more than short, simple instructions and simple work-related decision-making, with few work place changes." (R. 36).
After noting that Mr. Patterson has no past relevant work, the ALJ concluded that considering his age, education, work experience, and RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Mr. Patterson could perform, including cashier, counter clerk, and product inspector. (R. 36-37). Accordingly, the ALJ found that Mr. Patterson is not disabled as defined in the Social Security Act. (R. 38).
On March 4, 2013, this became the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration when the Appeals Council refused to review the ALJ's decision. (R. 1). Having exhausted all administrative remedies, Mr. Patterson filed this action for judicial review pursuant to §1631(c)(3) of the Social Security Act. See 42 U.S.C. §1383(c)(3).
In evaluating Mr. Patterson's claim for benefits, the ALJ considered extensive medical evidence. With respect to Mr. Patterson's alleged physical impairments, the ALJ reviewed treatment notes from Dr. Rajesh Patel, a specialist in the field of colon and digestive disease. Dr. Patel stated in his treatment notes from October 30, 2009 that Mr. Patterson had "undergone exhaustive ...