United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
E. Ott, Chief United States Magistrate Judge
John William Strange brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), seeking review of the final decision of the
Acting Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying his applications for
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income. (Doc. 1). The case has been assigned to the
undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to this
court's general order of reference. The parties have
consented to the jurisdiction of this court for disposition
of the matter. (Doc. 14). Upon review of the record and the
relevant law, the undersigned finds that the
Commissioner's decision is due to be reversed and
16, 2012, Plaintiff filed applications for a period of
disability, disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”), and supplemental security income
(“SSI”), alleging disability beginning February
22, 2005. (R. 35). Plaintiff later amended his alleged
disability onset date to July 16, 2012. (R. 35). His claims
were denied initially on September 12, 2012. (R. 35).
Thereafter, he requested a hearing by an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) on October 2, 2012. (R. 35). A
hearing was held on May 14, 2013, in Florence, Alabama. (R.
35). The ALJ denied Plaintiff's request for DIB and SSI
on September 24, 2013. (R. 35-43). Review by the Appeals
Council was requested twice by Plaintiff, and denied in both
instances. (R. 1-3, 15-17). Plaintiff filed this action on
February 5, 2016. (Doc. 1 at 1). This matter is properly
before the court for review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
narrowly circumscribed. The function of the court is to
determine whether the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence and whether proper legal
standards were applied. Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 390, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 1422 (1971); Wilson v.
Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1221 (11th Cir. 2002). The
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 that are 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 that the proper legal analysis has
been conducted, it must reverse the ALJ's decision.
See Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46
(11th Cir. 1991).
STATUTORY AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
qualify for DIB and SSI under the Social Security Act, a
claimant must show the inability to engage in “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 12
months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); 42 U.S.C.
§ 1382(a)(3) A) A physical or mental impairment is
“an impairment that results from anatomical,
physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are
demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory
diagnostic techniques.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(3); 42
U.S.C. § 1382(a)(3)(D).
of disability under the Social Security Act requires a five
step analysis. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4).
Specifically, the Commissioner must determine in sequence:
whether the claimant: (1) is unable to engage in substantial
gainful activity; (2) has a sever medically determinable
physical or mental impairment; (3) has such an impairment
that meets or equals a Listing and meets the duration
requirements; (4) can perform his past relevant work, in
light of his residual functional capacity; and (5) can make
an adjustment to other work, in light of his residual
functional capacity, age, education, and work experience.
Evans v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 551 F.App'x
521, 524 (11th Cir. 2014) (citing 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)). Plaintiff bears the burden of proving that
he was disabled within the meaning of the Social Security
Act. Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1211 (11th
Cir. 2005). The applicable “regulations place a very
heavy burden on the claimant to demonstrate both a qualifying
disability and an inability to perform past relevant
was 43 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. (R.
43, 79). He possesses a 12th grade education, including
special education classes through graduation. (R. 37, 42). He
has worked as a groundskeeper and a fast food worker. (R.72,
184). He has been unemployed since 2006. (R. 40). As noted
above, his original alleged onset of disability date was
February 22, 2015, which was later amended to July 16, 2012.
(R. 37, 79). Plaintiff's alleged disability was due to a
status post fracture of the distal right tibia and fibula,
chronic pain with toeing out of ...