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Foster v. Colvin

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

March 27, 2017

LARRY FOSTER, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          JOHN H. ENGLAND, III, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Larry Foster (“Foster”) seeks review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), § 205(g) of the Social Security Act, of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”), denying his application for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits (“DIB”), and supplemental security income (“SSI”).[2] (Doc. 1). Foster timely pursued and exhausted his administrative remedies. This case is therefore ripe for review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The undersigned has carefully considered the record and, for the reasons stated below, the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.

         I. Factual and Procedural History

         Foster filed applications for a period of disability, DIB, and SSI in November 2012, alleging he became unable to work beginning November 29, 2010. (Tr. 140-148). The Agency initially denied Foster's application and Foster requested a hearing, where he appeared on June 26, 2014. (Tr. 25-72). After the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied Foster's claim on August 6, 2014. (Tr. 10-21). Foster was a fifty-seven-year-old male on his hearing date. (Tr. 30). Foster has an eleventh-grade education. (Tr. 35). Foster's past relevant work was as a forklift operator, stocker, material handler, card changing textile worker, poultry hanger, saw operator inspector, and maintenance mechanic. (Tr. 16, 36-40, 56-57). Foster sought review by the Appeals Council, but it denied his request on October 27, 2015. (Tr. 1-4). On that date, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. On December 28, 2015, Foster initiated this action. (See doc. 1).

         IT. Standard of Review[3]

         The court's review of the Commissioner's decision is narrowly circumscribed. The function of this Court is to determine whether the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence and whether proper legal standards were applied. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971); Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1221 (11th Cir. 2002). This Court must “scrutinize the record as a whole to determine if the decision reached is reasonable and supported by substantial evidence.” Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Id. It is “more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance.” Id.

         This Court must uphold factual findings supported by substantial evidence. However, it reviews the ALJ's legal conclusions de novo because no presumption of validity attaches to the ALJ's determination of the proper legal standards to be applied. Davis v. Shalala, 985 F.2d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 1993). If the court finds an error in the ALJ's application of the law, or if the ALJ fails to provide the court with sufficient reasoning for determining the proper legal analysis has been conducted, it must reverse the ALJ's decision. Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991).

         III. Statutory and Regulatory Framework

         To qualify for disability benefits and establish his or her entitlement for a period of disability, a claimant must be disabled as defined by the Social Security Act and the Regulations promulgated thereunder.[4] The Regulations define “disabled” as “the inability to do 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 twelve (12) months.” 20 C.F.R § 404.1505(a). To establish entitlement to disability benefits, a claimant must provide evidence of a “physical or mental impairment” which “must result from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which can be shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1508.

         The Regulations provide a five-step process for determining whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i-v). The Commissioner must determine in sequence:

(1) whether the claimant is currently employed;
(2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment;
(3) whether the claimant's impairment meets or equals an impairment listed by ...

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