United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. BORDEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Marilyn Cutler filed this action on March 22, 2016, seeking
judicial review of a final adverse decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security denying her application for a
period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and
supplemental social security income under Titles II and XVI
of the Social Security Act. Doc. 1. The case is ripe for
review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and
1383(c)(3). The parties have consented to the entry of a
final judgment by the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), Rule 73 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and Rule 73.1 of the Local
Rules for the United States District Court for the Middle
District of Alabama. Docs. 9 & 10. Based upon a review of
the parties' briefs, the evidentiary record, and the
relevant authority, the court finds that the
Commissioner's decision is due to be AFFIRMED, as set
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court reviews a social security case to determine whether the
Commissioner's decision "is supported by substantial
evidence and based upon proper legal standards."
Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1439 (11th Cir.
1997). The court "may not decide the facts anew, reweigh
the evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the
Commissioner, " but rather it "must defer to the
Commissioner's decision if it is supported by substantial
evidence." Miles v. Chafer, 84 F.3d 1397, 1400
(11th Cir. 1997) (internal quotation marks omitted). Indeed,
the court must affirm the Commissioner's decision
"if it is supported by substantial evidence and the
correct legal standards were applied." Kelly v.
Apfel, 185 F.3d 1211, 1213 (11th Cir. 1999) (citing
Graham v. Apfel, 129 F.3d 1420, 1422 (11th Cir.
evidence is more than a scintilla-i.e., the evidence must do
more than merely create a suspicion of the existence of a
fact, and must include such relevant evidence as a reasonable
person would accept as adequate to support the
conclusion." Jones ex rel. T.J.J, v. Astrue,
2011 WL 1706465, at *1 (M.D. Ala. May 5, 2011) (citing
Lewis, 125 F.3d at 1440). The court must scrutinize
the entire record to determine the reasonableness of the
decision reached. Hale v. Bowen, 831 F.2d 1007, 1010
(11th Cir. 1987). "If the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence, the district court will
affirm, even if the court would have reached a contrary
result as a finder of fact, and even if the court finds that
the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's
decision." Jones, 2011 WL 1706465, at *2
(citing Edwards v. Sullivan, 937 F.2d 580, 584 n.3
(11th Cir. 1991)). The court will reverse the
Commissioner's decision on plenary review if the decision
applies incorrect law or fails to provide the court with
sufficient reasoning to determine that the Commissioner
properly applied the law. Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936
F.2d 1143, 1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991); Jones, 2011 WL
1706465, at *2 (citing Keeton v. Dep't of Health
& Human Servs., 21 F.3d 1064, 1066 (11th Cir.
1994)). There is no presumption that the Commissioner's
conclusions of law are valid. Id.
STATUTORY AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must show the
"inability 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
has 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); 42 U.S.C. § 416(f). A physical or mental
impairment is "an impairment that results from
anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities
which are demonstrated by medically acceptable clinical and
laboratory diagnostic techniques." 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(3). Cutler bears the burden of proving that she is
disabled, and she is responsible for producing evidence to
support her claim. See Ellison v. Barnhart, 355 F.3d
1272, 1276 (11th Cir. 2003).
of disability under the Social Security Act requires a
five-step analysis. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a).
Specifically, the Commissioner must determine in sequence:
(1) Is the claimant presently unemployed?
(2) Is the claimant's impairment severe?
(3) Does the claimant'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 claimant unable to perform his or her former
(5) Is the claimant unable to perform any other work within
McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir.
1986). "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 disabled.'" Id.
at 1030 (quoting 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)-(f)). "Once
the finding is made that a claimant cannot return to prior
work the burden of proof shifts to the Secretary to show
other work the claimant can do." Foote v.
Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1559 (11th Cir. 1995) (citing
Gibson v. Heckler, 762 F.2d 1516 (11th Cir. 1985)).