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Sartin v. Colvin

United States District Court, Northern District of Alabama, Jasper Division

April 30, 2015

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



Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1383(c), claimant Brian Phillip Sartin seeks judicial review of a final adverse decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his claims for supplemental security income. After careful review, the Court affirms the Commissioner’s decision.


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 his ‘legal conclusions with close scrutiny.’” Riggs v. Soc. Sec. Admin., Comm'r, 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 findings of the Commissioner. “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).


Mr. Sartin applied for supplemental security income on April 16, 2010. (Doc. 10-3, p. 13). He alleges that his disability began on September 12, 2009. (Id.) After the commissioner denied Mr. Sartin’s claim, Mr. Sartin requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Id.). The ALJ held a hearing on October 26, 2011. (Id.). The ALJ denied Mr. Sartin’s claim on December 22, 2011. (Doc. 10-3, pp. 30-63). On May 15, 2013, the Appeals Council declined Mr. Sartin’s request for review (Doc. 10-3, p. 13), making the Commissioner’s decision final and a proper candidate for this Court’s judicial review. See 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3).

At the time of the administrative hearing, Mr. Sartin was 33 years old, he had a limited education, and he could communicate in English. (Doc. 10-3, p. 22). Mr. Sartin has past work experience as a saw operator and shipping clerk. (Doc. 10-3, p. 20).

The ALJ determined that Mr. Sartin had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 16, 2010, the alleged onset date. (Doc. 10-3, p. 15). The ALJ found that Mr. Sartin suffers from the following severe impairments:

[a] history of skin grafts to the back and left arm and shoulder, adjustment disorder with depressed mood, blindness of the left eye due to a suprasellar mass status post radiation therapy, migraine headaches, degenerative joint disease of the right knee, and L5-S1 spondylitis with muscle spasms (20 CFR 416.920(c)).

(Doc. 10-3, pp. 15-16). However, the ALJ determined that the impairments, alone or in combination, do not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Doc. 10-3, pp. 15-16).

Next, the ALJ determined that Mr. Sartin retains the following residual functional capacity (RFC):

[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity to lift and/or carry up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, that the claimant should be able to stand and/or walk with normal breaks for a total of six hours in an eight hour workday and sit with normal breaks for up to six hours in an eight hour workday, that he can occasionally push and/or pull and reach overhead with the left upper extremity and occasionally use foot controls with the right lower extremity, that he can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl, but never work on ladders, ropes or scaffolds, that he should avoid heavy vibratory type jobs, along with hazardous machinery and unprotected heights, that due to his blindness, he would be limited to mononuclear vision and may have difficulties in peripheral vision situations; however, he would be able to read and drive, that he can understand and remember simple instructions, that he could maintain concentration for an eight hour workday in two hour intervals and would have only occasional contact with the general public, coworkers, and supervisors, and that any change in the workplace should be gradually introduced and the claimant may require assistance with realistic goals and making of plans.

(Doc. 10-3, pp. 16-17). When discussing Mr. Sartin’s RFC, the ALJ stated that “x- rays of the lumbar spine in August 2010 showed minimal changes of muscle spasm and the straightening of the spine with mild L5-S1 disc spondylitis.” (Doc. 10-3, p. 18).

Based on this RFC assessment, the ALJ found that Mr. Sartin cannot perform his past relevant work. (Doc. 10-3, p. 22). Considering Mr. Sartin’s age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined that there are jobs in significant numbers in the national economy that Mr. Sartin can perform. (Id.). Thus, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Sartin is not disabled as defined in ...

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