United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS, United States District Judge.
Jahala Collins (“Ms. Collins”) brings this action
under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Section 205(g) of the Social
Security Act. She seeks review of a final adverse decision of
the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”),  who denied her application for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”). Ms.
Collins filed an application for DIB on November 10, 2013.
Thereafter, she pursued and exhausted the administrative
remedies available before the Commissioner. Accordingly, this
case is now ripe for judicial review pursuant to the
provisions of section 205(g) of the Social Security Act (the
“Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
sole function of this court is to determine whether the
decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial
evidence and whether proper legal standards were applied.
Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th
Cir. 1983). To that end this court “must scrutinize the
record as a whole to determine if the decision reached is
reasonable and supported by substantial
evidence.”Id. Substantial evidence is
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Id. The court has carefully reviewed the entire
record in this case and is of the opinion that the
Commissioner failed to apply the correct legal standard.
Accordingly, the decision of the Commissioner is due to be
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
October 23, 2013, Ms. Collins filed a Title II application
for a period of disability and DIB, alleging disability
beginning September 30, 2012. (Tr. 86). Her claim was denied
initially on March 10, 2014. (Tr. 101). Ms. Collins made a
request for a hearing that was completed on March 13, 2014.
(Tr. 107). On October 19, 2015, Ms. Collins appeared and
testified at a hearing before an ALJ. (Tr. 32).
February 12, 2016, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision
declaring that Ms. Collins was not disabled and denying her
DIB claim. (Tr. 11-26). Ms. Collins timely requested further
review by the Appeals Council (Tr. 7), which was denied on
May 12, 2016. (Tr. 1).
court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
narrowly circumscribed. The function of this court is to
determine whether the decision of the Commissioner is
supported by substantial evidence and whether proper legal
standards were applied. Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 390 (1971); Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d
1219, 1221 (11th Cir. 2002). This 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. This
court will determine that the ALJ's opinion is supported
by substantial evidence if it finds “such relevant
evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Id. Substantial
evidence is “more than a scintilla, but less than a
preponderance.” Id. Factual findings that are
supported by substantial evidence must be upheld by the
court. The ALJ's legal conclusions, however, are reviewed
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, the
ALJ's decision must be reversed. Cornelius v.
Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991).
AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
qualify for disability benefits and establish his or her
entitlement for a period of disability, a claimant must be
disabled as defined by the Social Security Act and the
Regulations promulgated thereunder. The Regulations define
“disabled” as “the inability to do 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
twelve (12) months.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a). To
establish an entitlement to disability benefits, a claimant
must provide evidence about a “physical or mental
impairment” that “must result from anatomical,
physiological, or psychological abnormalities which can be
shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory
diagnostic techniques.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1508.
Regulations provide a five step process for determining
whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(i-v). The Commissioner must determine in
(1) whether the claimant is currently employed;
(2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment;
(3) whether the claimant's impairment meets or equals an
impairment listed by ...