United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Jasper Division
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
to 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c), plaintiff Leticia Gordon seeks
judicial review of a final adverse decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security. The Commissioner denied Ms.
Gordon's claim for supplemental security income. After
careful review, the Court affirms the Commissioner's
Gordon applied for supplemental security income on February
19, 2013. (Doc. 6-6, p. 2). Ms. Gordon alleges that her
disability began on November 1, 2011. (Doc. 6-6, p. 2). The
Commissioner initially denied Ms. Gordon's claim on June
12, 2013. (Doc. 6-5, p. 3). Ms. Gordon requested a hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Doc. 6-5, p. 10).
The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on March 19, 2015.
(Doc. 6-3, pp. 17-34). On July 11, 2016, the Appeals Council
declined Ms. Gordon's request for review (Doc. 6-3, p.
2), making the Commissioner's decision final and a proper
candidate for this Court's judicial review. See
42 U.S.C. § 1383(c).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
scope of review in this matter is limited. “When, as in
this case, the ALJ denies benefits and the Appeals Council
denies review, ” the Court “review[s] the
ALJ's ‘factual findings with deference' and
[his] ‘legal conclusions with close
scrutiny.'” Riggs v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 522 Fed.Appx. 509, 510-11 (11th Cir. 2013)
(quoting Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th
Court must determine whether there is substantial evidence in
the record to support the ALJ's findings.
“Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla and is
such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Crawford v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir.
2004). In making this evaluation, the Court may not
“decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, ”
or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. Winschel
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178
(11th Cir. 2011) (internal quotations and citation omitted).
If the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial
evidence, then the Court “must affirm even if the
evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's
findings.” Costigan v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec.
Admin., 603 Fed.Appx. 783, 786 (11th Cir. 2015) (citing
Crawford, 363 F.3d at 1158).
respect to the ALJ's legal conclusions, the Court must
determine whether the ALJ applied the correct legal
standards. If the Court finds an error in the ALJ's
application of the law, or if the Court finds that the ALJ
failed to provide sufficient reasoning to demonstrate that
the ALJ conducted a proper legal analysis, then the Court
must reverse the ALJ's decision. Cornelius v.
Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991).
SUMMARY OF THE ALJ'S DECISION
determine whether a claimant has proven that she is disabled,
an ALJ follows a five-step sequential evaluation process. The
(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 experience.
Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178.
case, the ALJ found that Ms. Gordon has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since February 7, 2013, the
application date. (Doc. 6-3, p. 23).The ALJ determined that Ms.
Gordon suffers from the following severe impairments: aortic
aneurysm, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD,
obesity, depression, anxiety, migraines, and a superior
labral tear from anterior to posterior left shoulder. (Doc.
6-3, p. 23). Based on a review of the medical evidence, the
ALJ concluded that Ms. Gordon does not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the
severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Doc. 6-3, p. 27).
the ALJ examined Ms. Gordon's residual functional
capacity in light of her impairments. The ALJ determined that
Ms. Gordon has the RFC to perform:
light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b), which allows for
occasional stooping or crouching; no climbing; no unprotected
heights; no left upper extremity pushing/pulling or overhead
reaching; no concentrated exposure to pulmonary irritants,
dusts, fumes, and gases. [Ms. Gordon] is also limited to
simple, non-complex tasks.
(Doc. 6-3, p. 28). Based on this RFC, the ALJ concluded that
Ms. Gordon is unable to perform her past relevant work as a
sewing machine operator, cashier, and fast food or pizza
worker. (Doc. 6-3, p. 32). Relying on testimony from a
vocational expert, the ALJ found that jobs exist in the
national economy that Ms. Gordon can perform, including
inspector, assembler, and ticket seller or ticket taker.
(Doc. 6-3, pp. 32-33). Accordingly, the ALJ determined that
Ms. Gordon has not been under a disability within the meaning
of the Social Security Act. (Doc. 6-3, pp. 33-34).
Gordon argues that she is entitled to relief from the
ALJ's decision because the ALJ erred in finding that Ms.
Gordon does not meet or equal Listing 4.10. If a claimant
establishes that an impairment meets or equals a listed
impairment, then the claimant demonstrates that she is
disabled. See Wilbon v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 181
Fed.Appx. 826, 827 (11th Cir. 2006). “To meet a
Listing, a claimant must have a diagnosis included in the
Listings and must provide medical reports documenting that
the conditions meet the specific criteria of the Listings and
the duration requirement.” Davenport v.
Astrue, 403 Fed.Appx. 352, 353 (11th Cir. 2010)
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted). “To
‘equal' a Listing, the medical findings must be at
least equal in severity and duration to the listed
findings.” Davenport, 403 Fed.Appx. at 353
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted). “If a
claimant has more than one impairment, and none meets or
equals a ...