United States District Court, N.D. Alabama
OWEN BOWDRE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
September 28, 2012, the claimant, Nathaniel Watkins,
protectively applied for disability benefits under Title II
of the Social Security Act. (R. 62, 116-17). In his
application, the claimant alleged disability beginning on
June 25, 2011, because of degenerative joint disease,
osteoarthritis in his left knee, lumbar degenerative disc
disease, obesity, chronic and severe pain, hypertension, and
diabetes mellitus. (R. 14-15). The Commissioner denied the
claims on December 12, 2012. The claimant filed a timely
request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, and
the ALJ held a video hearing on March 10, 2014. (R. 24-45).
decision dated April 11, 2014, the ALJ found that the
claimant was not disabled as defined by the Social Security
Act and was, therefore, ineligible for social security
benefits. (R. 12-20). On August 6, 2015, the Appeals Council
denied the claimant's requests for review. (R. 1-5).
Consequently, the ALJ's decision became the final
decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration. The claimant has exhausted his administrative
remedies, and this court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42
U.S.C. §§405(g) and 1383(c)(3). For the reasons
stated below, this court affirms the decision of the
substantial evidence supports the little weight that the ALJ
gave to the opinion of the claimant's treating physician
Dr. William Hall.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
standard for reviewing the Commissioner's decision is
limited. This court must affirm the ALJ's decision if she
applied the correct legal standards and if substantial
evidence supports her factual conclusions. See 42
U.S.C. § 405(g); Graham v. Apfel, 129 F.3d
1420, 1422 (11th Cir. 1997); Walker v. Bowen, 826
F.2d 996, 999 (11th Cir. 1987).
of validity attaches to the [Commissioner's] legal
conclusions, including determination of the proper standards
to be applied in evaluating claims.” Walker,
826 F.2d at 999. This court does not review the
Commissioner's factual determinations de novo.
The court will affirm those factual determinations that are
supported by substantial evidence. “Substantial
evidence” is “more than a mere scintilla. It
means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 402 (1971).
court must keep in mind that opinions, such as whether a
claimant is disabled, the nature and extent of a
claimant's residual functional capacity, and the
application of vocational factors, “are not medical
opinions, …but are, instead, opinions on issues
reserved to the Commissioner because they are administrative
findings that are dispositive of a case; i.e., that would
direct the determination or decision of disability.” 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(d), 416.927(d). Whether the
claimant meets a Listing and is qualified for Social Security
disability benefits is a question reserved for the ALJ, and
the court “may not decide facts anew, reweigh the
evidence, or substitute [its] judgment for that of the
Commissioner.” Dyer v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d
1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005). Thus, even if the court were to
disagree with the ALJ about the significance of certain
facts, the court has no power to reverse that finding as long
as substantial evidence in the record supports it.
court must “scrutinize the record in its entirety to
determine the reasonableness of the [Commissioner]'s
factual findings.” Walker, 826 F.2d at 999. A
reviewing court must not only look to those parts of the
record that support the decision of the ALJ, but also must
view the record in its entirety and take account of evidence
that detracts from the evidence relied on by the ALJ.
Hillsman v. Bowen, 804 F.2d 1179, 1180 (11th Cir.
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A), a person is entitled to
disability benefits when the person is unable 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 which has lasted
or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not
less than 12 months….” 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A). To make this determination the Commissioner
employs a five-step, sequential evaluation process:
(1) Is the person presently unemployed?
(2) Is the person's impairment severe?
(3) Does the person's impairment meet or equal one of the
specific impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt.
P, App. 1?
(4) Is the person unable to perform his or her former
(5) Is the person unable to perform any other work within the
An affirmative answer to any of the above questions leads
either to the next question, or, on steps three and five, to
a finding of disability. A negative answer to any question,
other than step three, leads to a determination of “not
McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir.
1986); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.
claimant was sixty-three years old at the time of the
ALJ's final decision (R. 27); has a college education (R.
174); has past relevant work as a customer service
representative (R. 42-43); and alleges disability based on
degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis in his left knee,
lumbar degenerative disc disease, obesity, chronic and severe
pain, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus (R. 14-15).
2008, the claimant sought treatment with Dr. William Hall at
Arlington Health Center on February 4 and September 25 for
chronic neck and back pain that resulted from a prior car
accident. He also returned to Dr. Hall on December
19 complaining of hand cramps, shoulder pain, and ...