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Roberts v. Colvin

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

February 27, 2017

BRANDON ROBERTS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ABDUL K. KALLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Brandon Roberts brings this action pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act (“the Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking review of the final adverse decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”). This court finds that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) applied the correct legal standards and that her decision - which has become the decision of the Commissioner - is supported by substantial evidence. Therefore, the court AFFIRMS the decision denying benefits.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Roberts filed an application for Title II child's disability insurance benefits on October 20, 2008, alleging a disability onset date of May 12, 1985 due to vision problems and asthma. (R. 196). The SSA determined Roberts to be disabled beginning January 1, 2006, and awarded him benefits. (R. 83). On May 14, 2013, the SSA conducted a continuing disability review, and determined that Roberts was no longer disabled. (R. 84-90, 98-103). Roberts requested reconsideration, but the SSA again found that Roberts was “not disabled.” (R. 104-09, 142). Roberts subsequently requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), (R. 145), who also denied Roberts's claim, (R. 15-26). The Appeals Council denied review, (R. 1-7), rendering the ALJ's opinion the final decision of the Commissioner. Roberts then filed this action pursuant to § 405(g). (Doc. 1.).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The only issues before this court are whether the record contains substantial evidence to sustain the ALJ's decision, see § 405(g); Walden v. Schweiker, 672 F.2d 835, 838 (11th Cir. 1982), and whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards, see Lamb v. Bowen, 847 F.2d 698, 791 (11th Cir. 1988); Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir. 1986). 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c) mandate that the Commissioner's “factual 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, reevaluate 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)).

         Substantial 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 court must affirm the Commissioner's factual findings even if the preponderance of the evidence is against the Commissioner's findings. See Martin, 894 F.2d at 1529. While the court acknowledges that judicial review of the ALJ's findings is limited in scope, it notes that the review “does not yield automatic affirmance.” Lamb, 847 F.2d at 701.

         III. STATUTORY AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK

         42 U.S.C. § 432(f) governs the termination of benefits, and provides that a recipient of benefits

may be determined not to be entitled to such benefits on the basis of a finding that the physical or mental impairment on the basis of which such benefits are provided has ceased, does not exist, or is not disabling only if such finding is supported by -
(1) substantial evidence which demonstrates that -
(A) there has been any medical improvement in the individual's impairment or combination of impairments (other than medical improvement which is not related to the individual's ability to work), and
(B) the individual is now able to engage in substantial ...

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