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Nelms v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

March 26, 2015

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


SONJA F. BIVINS, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Moneke Latasha Nelms (hereinafter "Plaintiff") brings this action seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her claim for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq., and 1381, et seq. On October 15, 2014, the parties waived oral argument, and on October 21, 2014, they consented to have the undersigned conduct any and all proceedings in this case. (Docs. 16, 18). Thus, the action was referred to the undersigned to conduct all proceedings and order the entry of judgment in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73. Upon careful consideration of the administrative record and the memoranda of the parties, it is hereby ORDERED that the decision of the Commissioner be AFFIRMED.

I. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income on March 3, 2011.[1] (Tr. 173). Plaintiff alleged that she had been disabled since November 10, 2010, due to a "slipped disc in back[;] right leg is numb[;] [and] diabetic." (Id. at 172, 175). Plaintiff's applications were denied, and upon timely request, she was granted an administrative hearing before Administrative Law Judge Kim McClain-Leazure (hereinafter "ALJ") on May 11, 2012. (Id. at 30). Plaintiff attended the hearing with her counsel and provided testimony related to her claims. (Id. at 33). A vocational expert ("VE") also appeared at the hearing and provided testimony. (Id. at 45). On July 16, 2012, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding that Plaintiff is not disabled. (Id. at 23). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on November 20, 2013. (Id. at 1). Thus, the ALJ's decision dated July 16, 2012, became the final decision of the Commissioner.

Having exhausted her administrative remedies, Plaintiff timely filed the present civil action. (Doc. 1). The parties agree that this case is now ripe for judicial review and is properly before this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).

II. Issue on Appeal

Whether the ALJ erred in giving "little weight" to the opinions of Plaintiff's treating physician?

III. Factual Background

Plaintiff was born on March 4, 1980, and was thirty-two years of age at the time of her administrative hearing on May 11, 2012. (Tr. 30, 33, 172). She completed the twelfth grade in school and last worked in 2008 as a housekeeper at a hospital. (Id. at 33, 176).

Plaintiff testified that she suffers from diabetes, [2] high blood pressure, [3] back pain, and right leg numbness. (Id. at 35-36). She described her pain as constant, and she rated it as a seven on a ten-point pain scale. (Id. at 36-37). She stated that she takes pain medication, which makes her drowsy and dizzy.[4] (Id. at 36, 42). She has also had repeated epidurals for pain, but they only made her condition worse. (Id. at 42).

Plaintiff testified that she cannot work because of her medical conditions and the side effects of her medications. (Id. at 35-36, 42). According to Plaintiff, she spends the majority of her day lying down. (Id. at 37). She takes care of her four-year old daughter alone, except that her mother comes over and helps approximately three days a week. (Id. at 37-38). She can shop, but she has to do it quickly. (Id. at 41). Plaintiff testified that she cannot clean, sweep, mop, bathe her child, or put on her child's clothes. (Id. at 38).

IV. Analysis

A. Standard of Review

In reviewing claims brought under the Act, this Court's role is a limited one. The Court's review is limited to determining 1) whether the decision of the Secretary is supported by substantial evidence and 2) whether the correct legal standards were applied.[5] Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990). A court may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Sewell v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 1065, 1067 (11th Cir. 1986). The Commissioner's findings of fact must be affirmed if they are based upon substantial evidence. Brown v. Sullivan, 921 F.2d 1233, 1235 (11th Cir. 1991); Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983) (holding substantial evidence is defined as "more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance" and consists of "such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion."). In determining whether substantial evidence exists, a court must ...

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