United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c), plaintiff
Ronald Slonaker seeks judicial review of a final adverse
decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security. The Commissioner denied Mr. Slonaker's
claims for a period of disability and disability insurance
benefits and supplemental security income. After careful
review, the Court remands this action for further
Slonaker applied for a period of disability and disability
insurance benefits and supplemental security income on
October 29, 2012. (Doc. 7-6, pp. 2, 8). Mr. Slonaker alleges
that his disability began on September 15, 2012. (Doc. 7-6,
pp. 2, 8). The Commissioner initially denied Mr.
Slonaker's claims on December 11, 2012. (Doc. 7-5, p. 8).
Mr. Slonaker requested a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ). (Doc. 7-5, p. 16). The ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision on July 24, 2014. (Doc. 7-3, p. 23). On March 8,
2015, the Appeals Council declined Mr. Slonaker's request
for review (Doc. 7-3, p. 2), making the Commissioner's
decision final and a proper candidate for this Court's
judicial review. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), §
STANDARD OF REVIEW
scope of review in this matter is limited. “When, as in
this case, the ALJ denies benefits and the Appeals Council
denies review, ” the Court “review[s] the
ALJ's ‘factual findings with deference' and
[his] ‘legal conclusions with close
scrutiny.'” Riggs v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 522 Fed.Appx. 509, 510-11 (11th Cir. 2013)
(quoting Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th
Court must determine whether there is substantial evidence in
the record to support the ALJ's factual findings.
“Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla and is
such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Crawford v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir.
2004). In evaluating the administrative record, the Court may
not “decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence”
or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. Winschel
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178
(11th Cir. 2011) (internal quotations and citation omitted).
If substantial evidence supports the ALJ's factual
findings, then the Court “must affirm even if the
evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's
findings.” Costigan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.
Admin., 603 Fed.Appx. 783, 786 (11th Cir. 2015) (citing
Crawford, 363 F.3d at 1158).
respect to the ALJ's legal conclusions, the Court must
determine whether the ALJ applied the correct legal
standards. If the Court finds an error in the ALJ's
application of the law, or if the Court finds that the ALJ
failed to provide sufficient reasoning to demonstrate that
the ALJ conducted a proper legal analysis, then the Court
must reverse the ALJ's decision. Cornelius v.
Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991).
SUMMARY OF THE ALJ'S DECISION
determine whether a claimant has proven that he is disabled,
an ALJ follows a five-step sequential evaluation process. The
(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 equals the severity of the specified
impairments in the Listing of Impairments; (4) based on a
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) assessment,
whether the claimant can perform any of his or her past
relevant work despite the impairment; and (5) whether there
are significant numbers of jobs in the national economy that
the claimant can perform given the claimant's RFC, age,
education, and work experience.
Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178.
case, the ALJ found that Mr. Slonaker has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since September 15, 2012, the
alleged onset date. (Doc. 7-3, p. 28). The ALJ determined
that Mr. Slonaker suffers from the following severe
impairments: diabetes mellitus with neuropathy, essential
hypertension, bipolar disorder, intermittent explosive
disorder, and history of alcohol abuse. (Doc. 7-3, p. 28).
Based on a review of the medical evidence, the ALJ concluded
that Mr. Slonaker does not have an impairment or combination
of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, Appendix 1. (Doc. 7-3, p. 29).
the ALJ evaluated Mr. Slonaker's residual functional
capacity in light of Mr. Slonaker's impairments. The ALJ