United States District Court, Northern District of Alabama, Northeastern Division
SHARON LOVELACE BLACKBURN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Plaintiff Kevin Eugene Gamble brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his application for disability insurance benefits [“DIB”] and supplemental security income [“SSI”]. After review of the record, the parties’ submissions, and the relevant law, the court is of the opinion that the Commissioner’s decision is due to be affirmed.
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff filed an application for DIB and SSI on September 8, 2010, alleging a disability onset date of August 1, 2010. (R. 67-68, 118-125.) Plaintiff’s application was denied by the Social Security Administration on January 6, 2011. (R. 69-73.) Thereafter, plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), which was held on March 22, 2012. (R. 36-66, 114.) After the hearing, the ALJ found that plaintiff was capable of making a vocational adjustment to other occupations, such as assembler, packer, and production helper. (R. 31.) In light of these findings, the ALJ denied plaintiff’s request for DIB and SSI on May 18, 2012. (R. 32.)
On July 10, 2012, plaintiff petitioned the Appeals Council to review the ALJ’s decision, (R. 17), and on August 20, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s request for review, thereby rendering the ALJ’s decision the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, (R. 1). Following denial of review by the Appeals Council, plaintiff filed an appeal in this court on October 21, 2013. (Doc. 1.)
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
In reviewing claims brought under the Social Security Act, this court “is limited to an inquiry into whether there is substantial evidence to support the findings of the Commissioner, and whether the correct legal standards were applied.” Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1221 (11th Cir. 2002); see also Lamb v. Bowen, 847 F.2d 698, 701 (11th Cir. 1988). The court gives deference to factual findings and reviews questions of law de novo. Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145 (11th Cir. 1991). The court “may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute [its] judgment for that of the [Commissioner]; rather the court must scrutinize the record as a whole to determine if the decision reached is reasonable and supported by substantial evidence.” Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990) (quoting Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983)) (internal quotations and other citation omitted). “The Commissioner’s factual findings are conclusive if supported by substantial evidence.” Wilson, 284 F.3d at 1221 (citing Martin, 894 F.2d at 1529; Allen v. Bowen, 816 F.2d 600, 602 (11th Cir. 1987)). “Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Winschel v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011) (internal quotations and citations omitted).
Conclusions of law made by the Commissioner are reviewed de novo. Cornelius, 936 F.2d at 1145. “[N]o . . . presumption of validity attaches to the [Commissioner’s] conclusions of law.” Wiggins v. Schweiker, 679 F.2d 1387, 1389 (11th Cir. 1982).
A. THE FIVE-STEP EVALUATION
The regulations require the Commissioner to follow a five-step sequential evaluation to determine whether a claimant is eligible for DIB or SSI. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(1)-(2); Bowen v. City of New York, 476 U.S. 467, 470 (1986). For the purposes of this evaluation, the meaning of disability is the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 416(i)(1); 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The specific steps in the evaluation process are as follows:
1. Substantial Gainful Employment
First, the Commissioner must determine whether the claimant is engaged in “substantial gainful activity.” Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 137 (1987). If the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, the Commissioner will find that the claimant is not disabled, regardless of the claimant’s medical condition or her age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b); § 416.920(b). “Under the first step, the claimant has the burden to show that she is not currently engaged in substantial gainful activity.” Reynolds-Buckley v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 457 F. App’x 862, 863 (11th Cir. 2012).
The ALJ determined that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset ...