United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KATHERINE P. NELSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) Plaintiff, Grady
Jordan (“Jordan” or “Plaintiff) seeks
judicial review of an adverse social security ruling denying
claims for disability insurance benefits (DIB) (Docs. 1, 14).
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. 23, 25). Oral argument was waived in this action (Doc.
22). 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 disability insurance benefits on
December 10, 2010. (TR. at 256-59). The application was
initially denied on January 11, 2011, after which Plaintiff
requested a hearing. (Doc. 14 at 1). A hearing was held
before an ALJ on February 19, 2013, and the ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision on April 8, 2013. (Id.)
Plaintiff appealed the decision to the Appeals Council and on
June 22, 2014, the case was remanded for further
consideration, including the consideration of Dr.
Dismukes' opinions. (TR. at 192-93, 92-96). A second
hearing in front of an ALJ was held on December 18, 2014, and
the ALJ rendered a second unfavorable decision on December
23, 2014. (Id. at 33-48, 66-74). Plaintiff again
appealed the decision of the ALJ and the Appeals Council
denied review on May 6, 2016. (Id. at 32, 374-377,
time of the second administrative hearing, Plaintiff was
fifty-two years old, had completed high school, and had
previous work experience as a construction worker and welder.
(Doc. 13; Fact Sheet). Plaintiff alleges disability due to
post traumatic arthritis due to left calcaneal fracture,
history of cervical fusion, and loss of pituitary gland
function. (Id.). An Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) denied benefits after determining that
Jordan did not meet disability listing requirements; the ALJ
further found that Plaintiff was capable of performing a
limited range of light work. (TR. at 39).
claims that the ALJ committed reversible error in rejecting
the opinion of one of Plaintiff's treating physicians,
Keith Dismukes, M.D. and “in doing so she performed an
inadequate, cursory review of the evidence.” (Doc. 14
at 1). Defendant has responded to-and denies-these claims.
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 weight assigned to the opinions of Dr.
Dismukes was in error based on the ALJ's incomplete
and/or improper consideration of Dr. Dismukes' treatment
records of Plaintiff. (Doc. 14 at 5). Defendant asserts the
ALJ's assignment of weight was based on substantial
evidence and was not in error. (Doc. 20, generally).
two of the sequential evaluation process the ALJ found that
Plaintiff had a severe impairment of “post traumatic
arthritis due to left calcaneal fracture and history of
cervical fusion.” (TR. at 38). At step three, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff did not have “an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the
severity of one of the listed impairment of 20 CFR Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR Part 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and
404.1526).” (Id. at 39). The ALJ then
determined that Plaintiff had the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work
“except that he required a sit-stand option allowing
him to alternate sitting or standing position at 60 minute
intervals throughout the day, no operation of foot controls
with the left lower extremity, ...