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Henderson v. Colvin

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

June 8, 2015

LARRY THOMAS HENDERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA, District Judge.

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and §1383(c), Larry Thomas Henderson seeks judicial review of a final adverse decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, affirming the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), who denied Mr. Henderson's claim for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security income. As discussed below, 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 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) (citing Dyer v. Barnhart, 395 F.2d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005)). 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 December 28, 2010, Larry Henderson applied for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security income. (Doc. 6-6, pp. 2-8, 9-14). Mr. Henderson alleged that his disability began on October 9, 2009. (Id. ). After the Commissioner initially denied Mr. Henderson's claims, Mr. Henderson requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Doc. 6-4, pp. 15-17). The ALJ held a hearing on June 14, 2012. (Doc. 6-3, p. 24). During his administrative hearing, Mr. Henderson amended his alleged onset date to September 21, 2010. (Doc. 6-3, p. 27). The ALJ denied Mr. Henderson's claims on July 17, 2012. (Doc. 6-3, p. 7). On January 3, 2014, the Appeals Council declined Mr. Henderson's request for review (Doc. 6-3, p. 2), making the Commissioner's decision final and a proper candidate for this Court's judicial review. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and § 1383(c)(3).

At the time of the administrative hearing, Mr. Henderson was 61 years old. He had a marginal education, and he could communicate in English. (Doc. 6-3, pp. 24-30). Mr. Henderson has past work experience as a truck driver. (Doc. 6-7, p. 22).

The ALJ determined that Mr. Henderson had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 21, 2010, the alleged onset date. (Doc. 6-3, p. 13). The ALJ then found that Mr. Henderson suffers from the following severe impairments:

Mild lumbar scoliosis with minimal degenerative changes at L3-4 and L4-5, moderate degenerative changes of the cervical spine with moderate to severe degenerative changes at C6-7, hypertension and osteoarthritis (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).

(Doc. 6-3, p. 13). However, the ALJ concluded 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. (Id. ).

Next, the ALJ evaluated Mr. Henderson's residual functional capacity (RFC). The ALJ determined:

[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c) except the claimant can lift and carry fifty pounds occasionally and twenty-five pounds frequently. He can stand and walk combined for six hours in an eight-hour day and sit six hours in an eight-hour day. The claimant can frequently climb ramps and stairs, but not ladders, ropes and scaffolds. The claimant can frequently balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl. The claimant can frequently reach overhead-bilaterally. The claimant cannot perform around work hazards.

(Doc. 6-3, p. 14).

Based on this RFC assessment, the ALJ found that Mr. Henderson can perform his past relevant work. (Doc. 6-3, p. 18). Considering Mr. Henderson's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined that there are jobs in significant numbers in the national economy that Mr. Henderson can perform. (Doc. 6-3, pp. 18-19). Thus, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Henderson is not disabled as ...


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