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Tubbs v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Northern Division

March 27, 2017

CAROL TUBBS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          SONJA F. BIVINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Carol Tubbs (hereinafter “Plaintiff”), seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her claim for supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381, et seq. On October 25, 2016, the parties consented to have the undersigned conduct any and all proceedings in this case. (Doc. 24). Thus, the action was referred to the undersigned to conduct all proceedings and order the entry of judgment in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73. Upon careful consideration of the administrative record and the memoranda of the parties, it is hereby ORDERED that the decision of the Commissioner be REVERSED and REMANDED for further proceedings not inconsistent with this decision.

         I. Procedural History [2]

         Plaintiff filed her application for benefits on October 18, 2011, alleging disability beginning September 1, 2011, based on heart problems, high blood pressure, and anemia. (Tr. 137, 166, 171). Plaintiff's application was denied and upon timely request, she was granted an administrative hearing before Administrative Law Judge Frank Klinger (hereinafter “ALJ”) on September 12, 2013. (Id. at 49). Plaintiff attended the hearing with her counsel and provided testimony related to her claims. (Id. at 52). A vocational expert (“VE”) also appeared at the hearing and provided testimony. (Id. at 62). On March 10, 2014, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding that Plaintiff is not disabled. (Id. at 24-38). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on September 24, 2015. (Id. at 1-2). Therefore, the ALJ's decision dated March 10, 2014, became the final decision of the Commissioner.

         Having exhausted her administrative remedies, Plaintiff timely filed the present civil action. (Doc. 1). The parties waived oral argument on October 25, 2016 (Doc. 23) and agree that this case is now ripe for judicial review and is properly before this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).

         II. Issues on Appeal

         1. Whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's finding that Plaintiff has the severe impairment of “probable borderline intellectual functioning?”

         2. Whether the ALJ erred in failing to find that Plaintiff meets Listing 12.05C?

         3. Whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's assignment of “little weight” to the opinion of examining licensed professional counselor, Dr. Donald W. Blanton, Ph.D.?

         III. Factual Background

         Plaintiff was born on May 11, 1964, and was forty-nine years of age at the time of her administrative hearing on September 12, 2013. (Tr. 53, 166). Plaintiff graduated from high school attending special education classes. (Id. at 53-54).

         Plaintiff last worked in 2005 as a scaler in a poultry processing plant.[3] (Id. at 172). Her past work also includes being a cook/dishwasher in a restaurant. (Id.). None of Plaintiff's past work qualifies as substantial gainful activity. (Id. at 36, 62). In her Disability Report submitted to the Agency, Plaintiff stated that she has not been able to work since September 1, 2011, due to heart problems, high blood pressure, and anemia. (Id. at 166, 171).

         IV. Standard of Review

         In reviewing claims brought under the Act, this Court's role is a limited one. The Court's review is limited to determining 1) whether the decision of the Secretary is supported by substantial evidence and 2) whether the correct legal standards were applied.[4]Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990). A court may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Sewell v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 1065, 1067 (11th Cir. 1986). The Commissioner's findings of fact must be affirmed if they are based upon substantial evidence. Brown v. Sullivan, 921 F.2d 1233, 1235 (11th Cir. 1991); Bloodsworth v. Heckler,703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983) (holding substantial evidence is defined as “more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance” and consists of “such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”). In determining whether substantial evidence exists, a court must ...


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