United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
G. CORNELIUS U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
plaintiff, Johnnie Ponds, appeals from the decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
("Commissioner") denying him a period of
disability, disability insurance benefits ("DIB"),
and supplemental security income ("SSI"). (Doc. 1).
Mr. Ponds timely pursued and exhausted his administrative
remedies, and the decision of the Commissioner is ripe for
review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3).
For the reasons that follow, the decision of the Commissioner
will be affirmed.
FACTS, FRAMEWORK, AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Ponds filed for DIB and SSI on November 27, 2012. (R. 25).
His claims were initially denied on July 23, 2013.
(Id.). The Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ") denied Mr. Ponds' applications on May
29, 2014. (R. 22-39). The Appeals Council denied review of
the ALJ's decision, and Mr. Ponds timely appealed to this
court. (R. 1-7); (Doc. 1).
Ponds was fifty-two years old at the time the ALJ issued a
decision denying his application for benefits. (R. 35, 208).
Mr. Ponds has a Graduate Equivalency Diploma, and his past
relevant work experience includes retail assistant manager,
janitor, forklift operator, and hazardous material control
technician. (R. 63-64). Mr. Ponds claims he is unable to work
due to problems with his lungs, kidneys, vision, back,
shoulders, and collarbone; emphysema; "free
bleeders;" hearing loss; and depression. (R. 190).
evaluating the disability of individuals over the age of
eighteen, the regulations prescribe a five-step sequential
evaluation process. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520, 416.920; Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274,
1278 (11th Cir. 2001). The first step requires a
determination of whether the claimant is performing
substantial gainful activity ("SGA"). 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i). If the claimant is engaged in
substantial gainful activity, he or she is not disabled and
the evaluation stops. Id. If the claimant is not
engaged in substantial gainful activity, the Commissioner
proceeds to consider the combined effects of all the
claimant's physical and mental impairments. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). These
impairments must be severe and must meet durational
requirements before a claimant will be found disabled.
Id. The decision depends on the medical evidence in
the record. See Hart v. Finch, 440 F.2d 1340, 1341
(5th Cir. 1971). If the claimant's impairments are not
severe, the analysis stops. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). Otherwise, the
analysis continues to step three, at which the Commissioner
determines whether the claimant's impairments meet the
severity of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the impairments
fall within this category, the claimant will be found
disabled without further consideration. Id. If the
impairments do not fall within the listings, the Commissioner
determines the claimant's residual functional capacity
("RFC"). 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e),
four the Commissioner determines whether the impairments
prevent the claimant from returning to past relevant work. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If
the claimant is capable of performing past relevant work, he
or she is not disabled and the evaluation stops. Id.
If the claimant cannot perform past relevant work, the
analysis proceeds to the fifth step, at which the
Commissioner considers the claimant's RFC, as well as the
claimant's age, education, and past work experience, to
determine whether he or she can perform other work.
Id.; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v),
416.920(a)(4)(v). If the claimant can do other work, he or
she is not disabled. Id.
the sequential evaluation process here, the ALJ found Mr.
Ponds had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since
his alleged onset of disability. (R. 27). At step two, the
ALJ found Mr. Ponds suffered from the severe impairments of
emphysema with ongoing tobacco abuse and severe degenerative
changes of the lumbar spine. (Id.). The ALJ also
considered Mr. Ponds' impairments of correctable vision
deficit, depression, and anxiety but determined these
impairments were non-severe. (R. 28). At step three, the ALJ
determined Mr. Ponds did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments meeting or medically equaling any
of the listed impairments. (R. 13, 30). Before proceeding to
step four, the ALJ determined Mr. Ponds had the RFC to
perform medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1567(c) and 416.967(c). But the ALJ also found the
following as to Mr. Ponds' RFC:
[T]he claimant can rarely, up to one hour total over the
course of an eight-hour workday, lift and carry up to 50 lbs.
The claimant can frequently lift and carry up to 25 lbs. The
claimant can sit at least two hours without limitation and a
total of at least six hours over the course of an eight-hour
workday. The claimant can stand at least two hours without
interruption and a total of at least six hours over the
course of an eight-hour workday. The claimant can walk at
least 45 minutes without interruption and a total of at least
five hours over the course of an eight-hour workday. The
claimant can frequently use his upper extremities for
reaching overhead, pushing, and pulling. The claimant is not
otherwise limited in the use of his upper extremities. The
claimant can frequently use his lower extremities for the
operation of foot controls. The claimant cannot climb
ladders, ropes, poles, or scaffolds. The claimant can
occasionally climb ramps and stairs. The claimant can
occasionally work in humidity, wetness, and extreme
temperatures. The claimant can occasionally work in dusts,
gases, odors, and fumes. The claimant cannot work in poorly
ventilated areas. The claimant cannot work at unprotected
heights. The claimant can occasionally work with operating
hazardous machinery. The claimant can occasionally work while
subject to vibration. The claimant can frequently operate
determining the RFC, the ALJ considered all Mr. Ponds'
symptoms and the extent to which these symptoms can
reasonably be accepted as consistent with the objective
medical evidence and other evidence. (Id.).
Regarding opinion evidence, the ALJ assigned significant
weight to the opinion of Dr. Judy Travis insofar as she
placed no limitations on Mr. Ponds, and she appeared to
perform a thorough examination. (R. 32). However, the ALJ
assigned no weight to Dr. Travis' diagnosis of
assigned little weight to the opinion of Dr. Perry Timberlake
because, although Dr. Timberlake is a treating physician, the
record shows only very limited meetings with Mr. Ponds. (R.
33). Only one meeting between Mr. Ponds and Dr. Timberlake
appears to have occurred before Dr. Timberlake issued his
opinion, and that meeting only lasted fifteen minutes. (R.
32). Further, Dr. Timberlake's findings and opinion were
inconsistent with the presentation of the claimant and the
claimant's activity levels noted in his function report.
four, the ALJ determined that Mr. Ponds' impairments and
the limitations arising from them do not preclude him from
performing all work activity. (Id.). The ALJ
concluded Mr. Ponds could return to his past relevant work in
retail, as well as other jobs in the economy which he could
perform. (R. 34). In reaching this determination, the ALJ
relied on the testimony of a vocational expert. (R. 34-35).
Accordingly, the ALJ concluded his findings by stating Mr.
Ponds "has not been under a disability, as defined in
the Social Security Act, from June 29, 2010, through the date
of this decision." (R. 35).