Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Jordan v. Berryhill

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

March 29, 2017

BONITA JORDAN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          TERRY F. MOORER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Following administrative denial of her application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.§§ 401, et seq., Bonita Jordan (“Jordan” or “Plaintiff”) received a requested hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) who rendered an unfavorable decision. When the Appeals Council rejected review, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”). See Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir. 1986). Judicial review proceeds pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), and for reasons herein explained, the Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision.

         I. Nature of the Case

         Jordan seeks judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security Administration's decision to deny her application for disability insurance benefits. United States district courts may conduct limited review of such decisions to determine whether they comply with applicable law and are supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405 (2006). The court may affirm, reverse and remand with instructions, or reverse and render a judgment. Id.

         II. Standard of Review

         Judicial review of the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits is narrowly circumscribed. The court reviews a social security case to determine whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence and based upon proper legal standards. Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011). The court “may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute [its] judgment for that of the Commissioner, ” but rather “must defer to the Commissioner's decision if it is supported by substantial evidence.” Miles v. Chater, 84 F.3d 1397, 1400 (11th Cir. 1997) (quoting Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983)); see also Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178 (stating the court should not re-weigh the evidence). This court must find the Commissioner's decision conclusive “if it is supported by substantial evidence and the correct legal standards were applied.” Kelley v. Apfel, 185 F.3d 1211, 1213 (11th Cir. 1999); see also Kosloff v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 581 Fed.Appx. 811, 811 (11th Cir. 2015) (citing Kelley).

         Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla - i.e., the evidence must do more than merely create a suspicion of the existence of a fact, and must include such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support the conclusion. Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178 (quoting Crawford v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004)); Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1440 (citing Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 1427, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971)). If the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, the district court will affirm, even if the court would have reached a contrary result as finder of fact, and even if the court finds that the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's decision. Edwards v. Sullivan, 937 F.2d 580, 584 n.3 (11th Cir. 1991); see also Henry v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 802 F.3d 1264, 1267 (11th Cir. 2015) (“even if the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's findings, we must affirm if the decision reached is supported by substantial evidence.”) (citation omitted). The district court must view the record as a whole, taking into account evidence favorable as well as unfavorable to the decision. Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1560 (11th Cir. 1995) (citing Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir. 1986)).

         The district court will reverse a Commissioner's decision on plenary review if the decision applies incorrect law, or if the decision fails to provide the district court with sufficient reasoning to determine that the Commissioner properly applied the law. Keeton v. Department of Health and Human Services, 21 F.3d 1064, 1066 (11th Cir. 1994) (internal citations omitted). There is no presumption that the Secretary's conclusions of law are valid. Id.; Brown v. Sullivan, 921 F.2d 1233, 1236 (11th Cir. 1991).

         III. Background and Proceedings

         Jordan claims disability because of degenerative disc disease, arthritis, depression, and low back pain. (R. 78-80, 97, 110). Following initial administrative denial of her claim, Jordan requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) (R. 11). ALJ Walter V. Lassiter (“the ALJ”) convened a video evidentiary hearing on September 16, 2013. (R. 66-108). On May 19, 2104, the ALJ convened a second hearing in person. (R. 33). The ALJ convened the second hearing because the ALJ had sent Jordan for a consultative examination and wanted to review the results plus Jordan's attorney had additional medical evidence she wanted the ALJ to consider. (R. 33). At each hearing, the ALJ received direct testimony from Jordan. The remaining evidentiary record consisted of medical reports from treating sources and residual functional capacity assessments from those who examined Jordan and/or reviewed Jordan's medical records upon request of Alabama Disability Determination Services.[1] The ALJ rendered an unfavorable verdict on June 24, 2014. (R. 11-25). On October 16, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Jordan's request for review (R. 1-6). This Social Security Appeal was filed on December 16, 2015. See Doc. 1, Complaint.

         IV. Administrative Decision

         A. Sequential Evaluation Process

         The Commissioner utilizes a five-step, burden-shifting analysis to determine when claimants are disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520;[2] Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1237 (11th Cir. 2004); O'Neal v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 614 Fed.Appx. 456, 458 (11th Cir. 2015). The ALJ determines:

(1) Whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity;
(2) Whether the claimant has a severe impairment or combination of impairments;
(3) Whether the impairment meets or exceeds one of the impairments ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.