United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
ENGLAND, III, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Amellia Peterson (“Peterson”) 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 her application for a
period of disability and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”). (Doc. 1). Peterson timely pursued and
exhausted her administrative remedies. This case is therefore
ripe for review under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g),
1383(c)(3). The undersigned has carefully considered the
record and, for the reasons stated below, the
Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.
Factual and Procedural History
filed her application for a period of disability and DIB on
November 22, 2010, alleging she became unable to work
beginning November 12, 2010. (Tr. 32, 168). The Agency
initially denied Peterson's application, and Peterson
requested a hearing where she appeared on June 15, 2012. (Tr.
96, 50-93). After the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) denied Peterson's claim on September
25, 2012. (Tr. 29-44). Peterson sought review by the Appeals
Council, but it declined her request on June 23, 2014. (Tr.
17-22). On that date, the ALJ's decision became the final
decision of the Commissioner. After requesting and receiving
more time to file a civil action, (tr. 1-4), on January 18,
2016, Peterson initiated this action. (See doc. 1).
was a forty-year-old when the ALJ issued his decision. She
held an associate's degree in computer technology, a
bachelor's degree in software engineering, and a
master's degree in liberal arts. (Tr. 44, 55, 58, 172).
Peterson is also a licensed practical nurse
(“LPN”). (Tr. 59). She had previously worked as a
poultry de-boner, licensed practical nurse, office nurse,
tire builder, teacher, and software specialist. (Tr. 82-83,
183). Peterson alleges her disability began on November 12,
2010, due to dilated nonischemic cardiomyopathy and severe
mitral insufficiency with ejection fraction of ten percent.
Standard of Review
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); Wi lson 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.
Court must uphold factual findings supported by substantial
evidence. “Substantial evidence may even exist contrary
to the findings of the ALJ, and [the reviewing court] may
have taken a different view of it as a factfinder. Yet, if
there is substantially supportive evidence, the findings
cannot be overturned.” Barron v. Sullivan, 924
F.2d 227, 230 (11th Cir. 1991). However, the Court 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).
Statutory and Regulatory Framework
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. 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.
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
(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 ...