United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
HARWELL G. DAVIS, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
protectively filed an application for Supplemental Security
Income on February 27, 2012, alleging that she became
disabled on September 12, 2008. (Tr. 85, 130-35). A hearing
was held before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on October
23, 2013. Plaintiff was represented by counsel, and an
impartial vocational expert (VE) also testified. (Tr. 42-70).
On January 16, 2014, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision.
(Tr. 17-31). The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's
request for review. (Tr. 1-5). The case is now ripe for
review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and
under the Social Security Act is determined under a five-step
test. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. First, the ALJ must
determine whether the claimant is engaging in substantial
gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(I).
“Substantial work activity” is work that involves
doing significant physical or mental activities. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1572(a). “Gainful work activity” is
work that is done for pay or profit. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(b). Second, the ALJ must determine whether the
claimant has a medically determinable impairment or a
combination of medical impairments that significantly limits
the claimant's ability to perform basic work activities.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii). Absent such impairment,
the claimant may not claim disability. Id. Third,
the ALJ must determine whether the claimant's impairment
meets or medically equals the criteria listed in 20 C.F.R.
§ 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526. If such
criteria are met, the claimant is declared disabled. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii).
claimant does not fulfill the requirements necessary to be
declared disabled under the third step, the ALJ may still
find disability under the next two steps of the analysis. The
ALJ first must determine the claimant's residual
functional capacity (RFC), which refers to the claimant's
ability to work despite his impairments. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(e). In the fourth step, the ALJ determines whether
the claimant has the RFC to perform past relevant work. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant is
determined to be capable of performing past relevant work,
then the claimant is deemed not disabled. Id. If the
ALJ finds that the claimant is unable to perform past
relevant work, then the analysis proceeds to the fifth and
final step. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v). In the last
part of the analysis, the ALJ must determine whether the
claimant is able to perform any other work commensurate with
her RFC, age, education and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(g). Here, the burden of proof shifts from the
claimant to the ALJ to prove the existence in significant
numbers of jobs in the national economy that the claimant can
do given the RFC, age, education and work experience. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g) and 404.1560(c).
this five-step procedure, the ALJ found that plaintiff has
the following severe impairments: bipolar disorder, anxiety
disorder, and polysubstance abuse. (Tr. 22). The ALJ also
found that plaintiff's condition did not meet or
medically equal the severity of one of the listed impairments
in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(d), 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526,
416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926. (Tr 22-24). The ALJ further
found, based on the entire record, that plaintiff has the RFC
to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels with
the following non-exertional limitations:
[Plaintiff] must avoid hazardous machinery and unprotected
heights. She is able to understand, remember, and carry out
simple tasks for two hours at a time with normal breaks. She
must work in an environment that does not require excessive
workloads, quick decision-making, rapid changes, and multiple
demands. She is able to adapt to occasional, well-explained
changes. While all competitive employment has production
requirements, [Plaintiff] must work in an environment that
does not have stringent production or speed requirements and
thus may not perform faced-paced assembly line work,
quota-based work, or piece rate work. [Plaintiff] may have no
contact with the public and no more than superficial,
occasional contact with co-workers and supervisors. She will
be off task 10 percent of the day.
concluded that plaintiff was unable to perform her past
relevant work. (Tr. 30). However, based on the testimony of
the VE, the ALJ found that there were other jobs available in
significant numbers in the economy that plaintiff could
perform. (Tr. 30-31). As a result, the ALJ found that
plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act.
Plaintiff's Argument for Reversal
asserts that the ALJ erred in denying benefits asserting that
the ALJ's findings regarding plaintiff's RFC are not
based in substantial evidence. (Doc. 12, Plaintiff's
Brief, at 1).
Standard of Review
review is limited to whether the record reveals substantial
evidence to sustain the ALJ's decision, see 42
U.S.C. § 405(g); Walden v. Schweiker, 672 F.2d
835, 838 (11th Cir. 1982), and whether the correct legal
standards were applied. See Lamb v. Bowen, 847 F.2d
698, 701 (11th Cir. 1988); Chester v. Brown, 792
F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir. 1986); Tieniber v. Heckler,
720 F.2d 1251, 1253 (11th Cir. 1983). Title 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) mandates that the Commissioner's findings are
conclusive if supported by “substantial
evidence.” Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520,
1529 (11th Cir. 1990). The district court may not reconsider
the facts, re-evaluate the evidence, or substitute its
judgment for that of the Commissioner; instead, it must
review the final decision as a whole and determine if the
decision is reasonable and supported by substantial evidence.
See Id. (citing Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703
F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983)).
evidence falls somewhere between a scintilla and a
preponderance of evidence; “[i]t is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Martin, 894 F.2d at
1529 (quoting Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1239) (other
citations omitted). If supported by substantial evidence, the
Commissioner's factual findings must be affirmed even if
the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's
findings. See Martin, 894 F.2d at 1529. While the
court acknowledges that judicial review of the ...