United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
FLOYD LANGER, JR. Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Social Security Commissioner Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KATHERINE P. NELSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) Plaintiff, Floyd Langer,
Jr. (“Langer” or “Plaintiff) seeks judicial
review of an adverse social security ruling denying a period
of disability and disability insurance benefits. (Docs. 1,
13). With the consent of the parties, the Court has
designated the undersigned Magistrate Judge to conduct all
proceedings and order the entry of judgment in this civil
action, in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 73, and S.D. Ala. GenLR 73.
(See Docs. 22, 24). Oral argument was heard on March
10, 2017. After considering the administrative record and the
memoranda of the parties, it is ORDERED that the decision of
the Commissioner be AFFIRMED and that this action be
protectively applied for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits on May 29, 2013, asserting a
disability onset date of January 28, 2011. (Tr. at 200-203).
Plaintiff's claim was denied at the Administrative level
after which Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing.
(TR. at 124, 134). Plaintiff attended a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ”) on November 13, 2014,
and the ALJ rendered an unfavorable decision on December 19,
2014. (TR. at 16-52).
time of the administrative hearing, Plaintiff was fifty-seven
years old with a high school diploma, an Associate's
Degree in Business Administration and a significant previous
work history, including experience as a Corrections Officer
until he resigned in 2008. (Doc. 13; Fact Sheet; TR. at
39-40, 42, and 47). Plaintiff alleges he is disabled due to
obesity, bilateral arthritis of the ankles, back pain, and
anxiety. (Doc. 13; Fact Sheet). On December 19, 2014, an ALJ
denied benefits after determining that Plaintiff was not
disabled and was able to work in his previous position as a
Corrections Officer. (TR. at 26). Plaintiff requested review
of the hearing decision, but the Appeals Council denied the
request on June 17, 2016. (TR. at 1-6).
claims that the ALJ committed reversible error (1) in that
the ALJ's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) was not supported by substantial
evidence, (2) in failing to fulfill her duty to develop the
record by ordering a consultative orthopedic examination, and
(3) in failing to find that Plaintiff suffers from severe
impairment of back pain and anxiety. (Doc. 13 at 1-2).
Defendant has responded to-and denies-these claims. (Doc.
Social Security appeals, [the Court] must determine whether
the Commissioner's decision is ‘ “supported
by substantial evidence and based on proper legal standards.
Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla and is such
relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” ' ”
Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176,
1178 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Crawford v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004) (per
curiam) (internal citation omitted) (quoting Lewis v.
Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1439 (11th Cir. 1997))).
However, the Court “ ‘may not decide the facts
anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute our judgment for
that of the [Commissioner].' ” Winschel,
631 F.3d at 1178 (quoting Phillips v. Barnhart, 357
F.3d 1232, 1240 n.8 (11th Cir. 2004) (alteration in original)
(quoting Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239
(11th Cir. 1983))). “ ‘Even if the evidence
preponderates against the [Commissioner]'s factual
findings, we must affirm if the decision reached is supported
by substantial evidence.' ” Ingram, 496
F.3d at 1260 (quoting Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d
1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990)).
within this narrowly circumscribed role, [courts] do not act
as automatons. [The court] must scrutinize the record as a
whole to determine if the decision reached is reasonable and
supported by substantial evidence[.]”
Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1239 (citations and
quotation omitted). See also Owens v. Heckler, 748
F.2d 1511, 1516 (11th Cir. 1984) (per curiam) (“We are
neither to conduct a de novo proceeding, nor to rubber stamp
the administrative decisions that come before us. Rather, our
function is to ensure that the decision was based on a
reasonable and consistently applied standard, and was
carefully considered in light of all the relevant
facts.”). “In determining whether substantial
evidence exists, [a court] must…tak[e] into account
evidence favorable as well as unfavorable to the
[Commissioner's] decision.” Chester v.
Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir. 1986).
the “claimant bears the burden of demonstrating the
inability to return to [his or] her past relevant work, the
Commissioner of Social Security has an obligation to develop
a full and fair record.” Shnorr v. Bowen, 816
F.2d 578, 581 (11th Cir. 1987). See also Ellison v.
Barnhart, 355 F.3d 1272, 1276 (11th Cir. 2003) (per
curiam) (“It is well-established that the ALJ has a
basic duty to develop a full and fair record. Nevertheless,
the claimant bears the burden of proving that he is disabled,
and, consequently, he is responsible for producing evidence
in support of his claim.” (citations omitted)).
“This is an onerous task, as the ALJ must scrupulously
and conscientiously probe into, inquire of, and explore for
all relevant facts. In determining whether a claimant is
disabled, the ALJ must consider the evidence as a
whole.” Henry v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 802
F.3d 1264, 1267 (11th Cir. 2015) (per curiam) (citation and
as here, the ALJ denied benefits and the Appeals Council
denied review of that decision, the Court “review[s]
the ALJ's decision as the Commissioner's final
decision.” Doughty, 245 F.3d at 1278.
“[W]hen the [Appeals Council] has denied review, [the
Court] will look only to the evidence actually presented to
the ALJ in determining whether the ALJ's decision is
supported by substantial evidence.” Falge v.
Apfel, 150 F.3d 1320, 1323 (11th Cir. 1998).
asserts that the ALJ erred in assigning a RFC that was not
supported by substantial evidence. (Doc. 13 at 2-6).
Plaintiff additionally claims that the ALJ failed to fully
develop the record by not ordering a physical consultation
and by not finding Plaintiff's impairments of back pain
and anxiety to be severe. (Id. at 6-9). The
undersigned will address each alleged assignment of error in
Whether the RFC was supported by ...