United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
ANTHONY D. MULKEY, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM E. CASSADY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Security Claimant/Plaintiff Anthony D. Mulkey brought this
action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3)
seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Defendant
Commissioner of Social Security (the
“Commissioner”) denying his applications for
child's insurance benefits (“CIB”) and
supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401, et
seq. The parties have consented to the exercise of
jurisdiction by the Magistrate Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(c), for all proceedings in this Court. (Doc. 25
(“In accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §
636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, the parties in this case consent
to have a United States Magistrate Judge conduct any and all
proceedings in this case, including the trial, order the
entry of a final judgment, and conduct all post-judgment
consideration of the briefs of the parties, (Docs. 20-21),
and the administrative record, (Doc. 19), (hereinafter cited
as “(R. [page number(s) in lower-right corner of
transcript])”), it is determined that the
Commissioner's decision is due to be AFFIRMED.
was born on December 30, 1993. (R. 15). The highest grade of
school Mulkey attained was twelfth grade at Baker High School
in Mobile, Alabama, and while there, he attended special
education classes. (R. 191 [SSA Ex. 6E]). Mulkey's sole
instance of employment, which occurred in the second quarter
of 2012, was with Mother Mary's Family Restaurant. (R.
filed applications for CIB and SSI with the Social Security
Administration (the “SSA”), on March 6, 2012, and
January 14, 2013, respectively. (R. 13). In Mulkey's
applications, he alleged disability beginning on February 1,
2001. (R. 13). After Mulkey's claim
was denied, he requested a hearing, which was held before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) for the SSA on
April 23, 2014. (R. 13). On August 8, 2014, the ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision on Mulkey's claims, finding him
“not disabled” under sections 223(d) and
1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act. (R. 10-28).
requested review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals
Council for the SSA's Office of Disability Adjudication
and Review. (R. 7-9). The Appeals Council denied Mulkey's
request for review on February 8, 2016, which made the
ALJ's the final decision of the Commissioner. (R. 1-6).
On February 24, 2016, Mulkey filed this action pursuant to
§ 405(g) and § 1383(c)(3) to review
the final decision of the Commissioner. (Doc. 1, ¶ 4).
Standard of Review
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)
(citations and internal quotations omitted). The Court
“may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence,
or substitute [its] judgment for that of the
[Commissioner].” Id. (citations omitted).
“Even if the evidence preponderates against the
Commissioner's findings, [the Court] must affirm if the
decision reached is supported by substantial evidence.”
Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir.
1990) (citing Sewell v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 1065, 1067
(11th Cir. 1986); MacGregor v. Bowen, 786 F.2d 1050,
1053 (11th Cir. 1986); and Bloodsworth v. Heckler,
703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983)). “Yet, within
this narrowly circumscribed role, [the Court does] not
‘act as automatons.'” Bloodsworth,
703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983) (citing Ware v.
Schweiker, 651 F.2d 408, 411 (5th Cir. 1981), cert.
denied, 455 U.S. 912, 102 S.Ct. 1263, 71 L.Ed.2d 452
(1982)). The Court “must scrutinize the record as a
whole, [Ware, 651 F.2d at 411]; Lewis v.
Weinberger, 515 F.2d 584, 586-87 (5th Cir. 1975), to
determine if the decision reached is reasonable, Simmons
v. Harris, 602 F.2d 1233, 1236 (5th Cir. 1979), and
supported by substantial evidence, Scharlow v.
Schweiker, 655 F.2d 645, 648 (5th Cir. 1981).”
Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1239.
contrast to the deferential review accorded to the
[Commissioner's] findings of fact, the
[Commissioner's] conclusions of law, including applicable
review standards are not presumed valid.”
Martin, 894 F.2d at 1529 (citing MacGregor,
786 F.2d at 1053; Smith v. Heckler, 707 F.2d 1284,
1285 (11th Cir. 1983), Wiggins v. Schweiker, 679
F.2d 1387, 1389 (11th Cir. 1982); Smith v.
Schweiker, 646 F.2d 1075, 1076 (5th Cir. Unit A June
1981). “The [Commissioner's] failure to apply the
correct legal standard or to provide the reviewing court with
sufficient basis for a determination that proper legal
principles have been followed mandates reversal.”
Martin, 894 F.2d at 1529 (citing Gibson v.
Heckler, 779 F.2d 619, 622 (11th Cir. 1986); Bowel
v. Heckler, 748 F.2d 629, 635-36 (11th Cir. 1984);
Smith, 707 F.2d at 1285; Wiggins, 679 F.2d
at 1389; Ambers v. Heckler, 736 F.2d 1467, 1470
(11th Cir. 1984)).
The Social Security Regulations outline a five-step,
sequential evaluation process used to determine whether a
claimant is disabled: (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
Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178 (citing 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v), 416.920(a)(4)(i)-(v);
Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, at 1237-39
(11th Cir. 2004)).
Claims on Judicial Review
“The [ALJ] reversibly erred in failing to assign
controlling weight to the opinion of the [Mulkey]'s
treating physician, Edith McCreadie, M.D.[, ] and instead
adopted her own medical opinion. The [ALJ] failed to show
good cause in rejecting the Plaintiff's treating
physician.” (Doc. 20, at 1-2).
“The [ALJ] committed reversible error in violation of
Social Security Regulations 20 C.F.R. § 416.945, 20
C.F.R. § 404.1545, and Social Security Ruling 96-8p in
that the [ALJ]'s residual functional capacity
[(“RFC”)] determination was not supported by
substantial evidence.” (Doc. 20, at 2).
the first step, the ALJ must consider the claimant's
current working situation. If the claimant is ‘doing
substantial gainful activity, [the ALJ] will find that [the
claimant is] not disabled.'” Phillips, 357
F.3d at 1237 (alterations in original) (quoting 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i) & (b). “If however, the
claimant is not currently ‘doing gainful activity'
then the ALJ moves on to the second step.”
Phillips, 357 F.3d at 1237. At the first step, the
ALJ determined that Mulkey had “not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since February 1, 2001, the
alleged onset date.” (R. 23). The ALJ noted that Mulkey
earned “$239.00 in income from Mother Mary's Family
Restaurant in the second quarter of 2012, ” but
“[t]his work activity did not rise to the level of
substantial gainful activity.” (R. 15).
At the second step, the ALJ is to “consider the medical
severity of [the claimant's] impairment(s).” 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii). When considering the
severity of the claimant's medical impairments, the ALJ
must determine whether the impairments, alone or in
combination, “significantly limit” the
claimant's “physical or mental ability to do basic
work skills.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). If the ALJ
concludes that none of the claimant's impairments are
medically severe, the ALJ is to conclude that the claimant is
not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii) & (c).
If, however, the ALJ concludes that the claimant's
impairments are medically severe, then the ALJ moves on to
the third step.
Phillips, 357 F.3d at 1237 (alterations in
original). At Step Two, the ALJ determined that Mulkey had
the following severe impairments: “attention deficit
disorder and borderline intellectual functioning.” (R.
At the third step, the ALJ again considers the “medical
severity of [the claimant's] impairment(s)” in
order to determine whether the claimant's impairment(s)
“meets or equals” one of the listed disabilities.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). Although the list is
too voluminous to recite here, the idea is that the listings
“streamline[ ] the decision process by identifying
those claimants whose medical impairments are so severe that
it is likely they would be found disabled regardless of their
vocational background.” Bowen v. Yuckert, 482
U.S. 137, 153, 107 S.Ct. 2287, 2297, 96 L.Ed.2d 119 (1987).
If the ALJ concludes that the claimant's impairments meet
or equal one of the listed disabilities and meet the duration
requirement, the ALJ will conclude that the claimant is