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Beasley v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Jasper Division

December 19, 2014

LINDA BEASLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Linda Beasley ("Beasley") brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act. She seeks review of a final adverse decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner"), who denied her application for disability and disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). Beasley timely pursued and exhausted her administrative remedies available before the Commissioner. The case is thus ripe for review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).[1] The court has carefully considered the record and, for the reasons which follow, finds that the decision of the Commissioner is due to be AFFIRMED.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Beasley was 54 years old on her date last insured, December 31, 2006. (Tr. 13, 54, 133). She has a high school degree. (Tr. 29). She previously worked as a restaurant manager. (Tr. 28, 42-43). Beasley alleged disability since October 1, 2006, because of neck pain, a heel spur, and high blood pressure. (Tr. 106, 133, 137).

Beasley protectively filed applications for a period of disability and DIB on April 29, 2010. (Tr. 54, 133). The Social Security Administration denied these applications on June 28, 2010. (Tr. 55-57). She timely requested and appeared at a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). (Tr. 47-53). The hearing was held on January 6, 2012, and the ALJ issued a decision, dated March 15, 2012, denying Beasley's application. (Tr. 23, 19). The Appeals Council ("AC") denied Beasley's request for review on July 26, 2013. (Tr. 1-4).

Beasley filed a complaint with this court on September 24, 2013, seeking review of the Commissioner's determination. (Doc. 1). The Commissioner answered on February 14, 2014. (Doc. 8). Beasley filed a supporting brief (Doc. 11) on April 21, 2014, and the Commissioner responded with her own (Doc. 13) on May 20, 2014.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The court's review of the Commissioner's decision is narrowly circumscribed. The function of this court is to determine whether the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence and whether proper legal standards were applied. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971); Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1221 (11th Cir. 2002). This court must "scrutinize the record as a whole to determine if the decision reached is reasonable and supported by substantial evidence." Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id. It is "more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance." Id.

This court must uphold factual findings that are supported by substantial evidence. However, it reviews the ALJ's legal conclusions de novo because no presumption of validity attaches to the ALJ's determination of the proper legal standards to be applied. Davis v. Shalala, 985 F.2d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 1993). If the court finds an error in the ALJ's application of the law, or if the ALJ fails to provide the court with sufficient reasoning for determining that the proper legal analysis has been conducted, it must reverse the ALJ's decision. Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991).

IV. STATUTORY AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK

To qualify for disability benefits and establish his or her entitlement for a period of disability, a claimant must be disabled as defined by the Social Security Act and the Regulations promulgated thereunder. The Regulations define "disabled" as "the inability to do any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve (12) months." 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a). To establish an entitlement to disability benefits, a claimant must provide evidence about a "physical or mental impairment" which "must result from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which can be shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques." 20 C.F.R. § 404.1508.

The Regulations provide a five-step process for determining whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i-v). The ...


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