United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Jasper Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
G. CORNELIUS, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
plaintiff seeks review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security denying her application for a
period of disability, disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”), and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”). (Doc. 1). The plaintiff timely pursued
and exhausted her administrative remedies, and the case is
therefore ripe for review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
FACTS, FRAMEWORK, AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
time she applied for benefits, June 26, 2013 (SSI), and July
1, 2013 (DIB), the plaintiff was forthy-three (43) years old.
(R. 205, 219). She is a high school graduate, completed
cosmetology training, and previously worked as a cashier,
beautician, nursing assistant, loan clerk, cook, security
guard, office clerk, and shelter monitor. (R. 156, 395). The
plaintiff claims she became disabled as of May 15, 2013, due
to heart attacks, stents, depression, high blood pressure,
anxiety, anemia, arthritis, right shoulder pain, and
bursitis. (R. 394). After the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) denied her applications (R. 205, 219),
she requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”), which was held on September 16, 2014.
(R. 153, 230). After the hearing, the ALJ found that the
plaintiff did not have an impairment or a combination of
impairments listed in, or medically equivalent to, one listed
in the Listings of Impairments. (R. 139). The ALJ further
found the plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity
to perform a reduced range of light work and that while she
had no past relevant work, jobs exist in the national economy
in significant numbers which the plaintiff could perform.
(R.140, 145). In light of these findings, the ALJ denied the
plaintiff's request for a period of disability on
November 13, 2014. (R. 146).
plaintiff requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ's
decision (R. 126), which the Appeals Council denied. (R. 1).
Therefore, the ALJ's decision is the final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security. (Id.) The
plaintiff then filed the appeal in this court on May 16,
2016, seeking reversal of the Commissioner's decision.
(Docs. 1, 15).
regulations require the Commissioner to follow a five-step
sequential evaluation to determine whether a claimant is
eligible for a period of disability, SSI, and DIB.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(1)-(2);
416.920(a)(1)-(2). First, the Commissioner must determine
whether the claimant is engaged in “substantial gainful
activity.” Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140
(1987). If the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful
activity, the Commissioner will find that the claimant is not
disabled, regardless of the claimant's medical condition
or her age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(b); 416.920(b). If the claimant is not
engaged in substantial gainful activity, the Commissioner
must next determine whether the claimant suffers from a
severe impairment or combination of impairments that
significantly limit the claimant's physical or mental
ability to do basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii), (c); 416.920(a)(4)(ii), (c). The burden
is on the claimant to “provide medical evidence showing
... impairment(s)” and the severity of them during the
time the claimant alleges disability. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1512(c); 416.912(c). An impairment is
“severe” if it “significantly limits [a]
claimant's physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities.” Crayton v. Callahan, 120 F.3d
1217, 1219 (11th Cir. 1997). “An impairment can be
considered as not severe only if it is a slight abnormality
which has such a minimal effect on the individual that it
would not be expected to interfere with the individual's
ability to work, irrespective of age, education, or work
experience.” Brady v. Heckler, 724 F.2d 914,
920 (11th Cir. 1984).
claimant has a severe impairment, the Commissioner must then
determine whether the claimant's impairment meets the
duration requirement and whether it is equivalent to any one
of the listed impairments. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iii), (d)-(e); 416.920(a)(4)(iii), (d)-(e);
§§ 404.1525; 416.925; §§ 404.1526;
416.926. Listed impairments are so severe that they prevent
an individual from performing substantial gainful activity.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d); 416.920(d); see
20 C.F.R. pt. 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (The Listings). If
the claimant's impairment meets or equals a Listing, the
Commissioner must find the claimant disabled, regardless of
the claimant's age, education, and work experience. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d); 416.920(d). If the
impairment does not meet or equal the criteria of any
Listing, the claimant must prove that her impairment prevents
her from performing her past relevant work. See 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), (f);
four, the Commissioner “will first compare [the
Commission's] assessment of [the claimant's] residual
functional capacity [“RFC”] with the physical and
mental demands of [the claimant's] past relevant work. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1560(b); 416.960(b). If the claimant
is capable of performing her past relevant work, the
Commissioner will find she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1560(b)(3); 416.960(b)(3). If the claimant
establishes that she is unable to perform her past relevant
work, the Commissioner must show that the claimant-in light
of her RFC, age, education, and work experience-is capable of
performing other work that exists in substantial numbers in
the national economy. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1560(c)(1);
416.960(c)(1). If the claimant is not capable of performing
such other work, the Commissioner must find the claimant is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g); 416.920(g).
these steps, the ALJ determined that the plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful employment since her alleged
onset date. (R. 136). At step two, the ALJ found the
plaintiff suffered from the severe impairments of coronary
artery disease status post myocardial infarction times two,
benign hypertension, mild cervical degenerative disease, and
right shoulder pain. (Id.). The ALJ found the
plaintiff's depression to be non-severe because it did
not cause more than minimal limitation in the plaintiff's
ability to perform work related activities. (R. 137). Next,
the ALJ found the plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled any
Listing. (R. 139). The ALJ determined that the plaintiff had
the RFC to perform light work, as defined in 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1567(b); 416.967(b), reduced by limitations
of no concentrated exposure to heat, cold, dust, gases, or
humidity; no work around dangerous or moving machinery or
unprotected heights; no ladders, ropes or scaffolding; and
further limitations against more than occasional balancing,
stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling, and climbing ramps
or stairs. (R. 140). Considering this RFC, the ALJ determined
at step four that the plaintiff had no past relevant work but
found at step five, through the use of vocational expert
testimony, that the plaintiff could perform jobs which exist
in the national economy in significant numbers, such as
cashier, information clerk, and office helper. (R. 145).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
reviewing claims brought under the Social Security Act, this
court is limited to an inquiry into whether substantial
evidence exists to support the findings of the Commissioner
and whether the correct legal standards were applied.
Stone v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 544 Fed. App'x
839, 841 (11th Cir. 2013) (citing Crawford v. Comm'r
of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004)). The
court gives deference to the factual findings of the
Commissioner but reviews questions of law de novo. Ingram
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 496 F.3d 1253, 1260 (11th
Cir. 2007). The court “may not decide the facts anew,
reweigh the evidence, or substitute [its] judgment for that
of the [Commissioner], ” Dyer v. Barnhart, 395
F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005), rather it must
“scrutinize the record as a whole to determine if the
decision reached is reasonable and supported by substantial
evidence.” Henry v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
802 F.3d 1264, 1267 (11th Cir. 2015). “The
Commissioner's factual findings are conclusive if
supported by substantial evidence.” Wilson v.
Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1221 (11th Cir. 2002).
“Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but
rather such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Moore
v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005).
plaintiff contends the ALJ's failure to consider the
plaintiff's complaints of shortness of breath and
depression as severe impairments was error. (Doc. 15 at 14,
16). The Commissioner responds that because the ALJ found
other impairments were severe, the failure to list more
impairments as severe is not reversible error. (Doc. 16 at
finding an impairment “non-severe, ” an ALJ must
“provide the reviewing court with the sufficient basis
to determine that the correct legal principles have been
followed.” Wiggins v. Schweiker, 679 F.2d
1387, 1389 (11th Cir. 1982). The ALJ carefully detailed all
of the evidence in the record which supported his
determination that neither the plaintiff's allegation of
shortness of breath, nor her allegation of depression, caused
more than minimal functional limitations. (R. 137-138,
140-144). Additionally, there is no requirement that an ALJ
list every impairment as severe at step two. Heatly v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 382 Fed. App'x 823, 825
(11th Cir. 2010). Rather, the failure to list an impairment
at step two is harmless error when the ALJ found that the
plaintiff suffered from other severe impairments, the ALJ
continued with the sequential evaluation process, and the ALJ
considered the impairment at other steps of the evaluation
process. Heatly, 382 Fed. App'x at 825.
“[T]he finding of any severe impairment, whether or not
it qualifies as a disability and whether or not it results
from a single severe impairment or a combination of
impairments that together qualify as severe, is enough to
satisfy the requirement at step two.” Jamison v.
Bowen, 814 F.2d 585, 588 (11th Cir. 1987); see also