United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA, District Judge.
Plaintiff Marvis Stella Moore brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and § 1383(c)(3) seeking judicial review of a final adverse decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, affirming the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") who denied Ms. Moore's Title II claim for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits and her Title XVI claim for supplemental security income. After careful review, the Court finds that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision. Therefore, the Court affirms the Commissioner's ruling.
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
On September 15, 2009, Ms. Moore filed an application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act, and also filed an application for supplemental security income pursuant to Title XVI. (TR 24, 172, 176). In both applications, Ms. Moore alleged that her disability began on December 31, 2005. (TR 24, 172, 176). The Social Security Administration denied both claims on November 23, 2009. (TR 24, 98, 99). Ms. Moore then filed a written request for a hearing before an ALJ on December 21, 2009. (TR 24, 117).
The ALJ held a video hearing on July 20, 2011. (Doc. 12, p.1; TR 24, 42). Ms. Moore, accompanied by her attorney, appeared and testified from Gadsden, Alabama. (Doc. 12, p.1; TR 24). Norma-Jill Jacobson, an impartial vocational expert, also testified at the hearing. (TR 24, 63). At the time of her hearing, Ms. Moore was 47 years old, which is considered a "younger person" under 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c). (TR 46). Ms. Moore has an eighth grade education. (TR 44, 47). Her past relevant work experience is as a poultry worker, a fast food worker, a fast food assistant manager, and a packer. (TR 64-68).
On August 12, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision denying Ms. Moore's disability claims. (TR 24-35). The ALJ found that Ms. Moore has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 31, 2005, the alleged onset date. (TR 26). Next, the ALJ determined that "[Ms. Moore] has the following severe impairments: obesity, migraine headaches and major depression." (TR 26). Nevertheless, the ALJ found that Ms. Moore does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (TR 27). Next, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Moore had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work. (TR 26). Specifically, the ALJ found that:
[Ms. Moore] can occasionally climb stairs or ramps, crouch and crawl; she can frequently balance, stoop, and kneel; and she should never be exposed to hazardous conditions such as heights and moving machinery. She can understand, remember and carry out simple instructions but not detailed and complex instructions. Work place changes should be infrequent and introduced gradually. She can perform work that needs little or no judgment and make simple, work-related decisions. She can never interact with the public and occasionally interact with co-workers and supervisors meaning she can be around employees throughout the workday with occasional conversation and interpersonal interaction; but overall, she is better dealing with things rather than people. She is able to sustain concentration and attention for 2 hours at one time with normal break throughout an 8-hour workday.
(TR 28). The ALJ concluded that Ms. Moore can perform her past relevant work as a packer because the activities needed to complete her work in such a position are not precluded by her RFC. (TR 33). The ALJ also determined that there were other similar jobs in the nation and in Alabama that Ms. Moore could perform despite her limitations, including laundry bagger, food inspector, and assembler. (TR 34). Consequently, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Moore is not disabled as that term is defined in the Social Security Act. (TR 35).
On August 12, 2011, this became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council refused to review the ALJ's decision. (Doc. 12, p. 3; TR 1). Having exhausted all administrative remedies, Ms. Moore filed this action for ...