United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Jasper Division
TOMMY REECE, JR. CLAIMANT,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, acting Commissioner of Social Security RESPONDENT. No. 6
OWEN BOWDRE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
10, 2013, the claimant, Tommy Reece, filed for disability
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. (R. 131).
In his application, the claimant alleged disability beginning
on May 31, 2013 because of cirrhosis, esophageal varices, and
diabetes mellitus (R. 131, 161). The Commissioner initially
denied the claims on September 5, 2013. The claimant filed a
timely request for a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge on September 10, 2013. (R. 10) On February 9, 2015, the
claimant amended his onset date to September 21, 2013 (R. 10,
158). The ALJ held a hearing on February 9, 2015. (R. 27-54).
decision dated April 20, 2015, the ALJ found that the
claimant was not disabled as defined by the Social Security
Act and was, therefore, ineligible for social security
benefits. (R. 10-22). On January 27, 2016, the Appeals
Council denied the claimant's request for review. (1-4).
Consequently, the ALJ's decision became the final
decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration. The claimant has exhausted his administrative
remedies, and this court has jurisdiction pursuant to U.S.C.
§§405(g) and 1383(c)(3). For the reasons stated
below, this court affirms the decision of the commissioner.
the ALJ explicitly articulated reasons supported by
substantial evidence for discrediting the claimant's
STANDARD OF REVIEW
standard for reviewing the Commissioner's decision is
limited. This court must affirm the ALJ's decision if she
applied the correct legal standards and if substantial
evidence supports her factual conclusions. See 42
U.S.C. § 405(g); Graham v. Apfel, 129 F.3d
1420, 1422 (11th Cir. 1997); Walker v. Bowen, 826
F.2d 996, 999 (11th Cir. 1987).
of validity attaches to the [Commissioner's] legal
conclusions, including determination of the proper standards
to be applied in evaluating claims.” Walker,
826 F.2d at 999. This court does not review the
Commissioner's factual determinations de novo.
The court will affirm those factual determinations that are
supported by substantial evidence. “Substantial
evidence” is “more than a mere scintilla. It
means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 402 (1971).
court must keep in mind that opinions, such as whether a
claimant is disabled, the nature and extent of a
claimant's residual functional capacity, and the
application of vocational factors, “are not medical
opinions, ...but are, instead, opinions on issues reserved to
the Commissioner because they are administrative findings
that are dispositive of a case; i.e., that would direct the
determination or decision of disability.” 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1527(d), 416.927(D). Whether the claimant
meets a Listing and is qualified for Social Security
disability benefits is a question reserved for the ALJ, and
the court “may not decide facts anew, reweigh the
evidence, or substitute [its] judgment for that of the
Commissioner.” Dyer v. Barnhard, 395 F.3d
1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005). Thus, even if the court were to
disagree with the ALJ about the significance of certain
facts, the court has no power to reverse that finding as long
as substantial evidence in the record supports it.
court must “scrutinize the record in its entirety to
determine the reasonableness of the [Commissioner]'s
factual findings.” Walker, 826 F.2d at 000. A
reviewing court must not only look to those parts of the
record that support the decision of the ALJ, but also must
view the record in its entirety and take account of evidence
that detracts from the evidence relied on by the ALJ.
Hillsman v. Bowen, 804 F.2d 1179, 1180 (11th Cir.
42 U.S.C. § 423 (d)(1)(A), a person is entitled to
disability benefits when the person is unable 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 as 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).
To make this determination the Commissioner employs a
five-step, sequential evaluation process:
(1) Is the person presently unemployed?
(2) Is the person's impairment severe?
(3) Does the person's impairment meet or equal one of the
specific impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, Subpt.
P, App. 1?
(4) Is the person unable to perform his or her former
(5) Is the person unable to perform any other work within the
An affirmative answer to any of the above questions leads
either to the next question, or, on steps three and five, to
a finding of disability. A negative answer to any question,
other than step three, leads to a determination of “not
McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir.
1986); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.
claimant was fifty-one years old at the time of the ALJ's
final decision (R. 22); completed the tenth grade (R. 167);
has past relevant work as a motorcycle sales owner and
production supervisor (R. 186-187); and alleges disability
based on diabetes mellitus, ...