United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Western Division
G. CORNELIUS U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
plaintiff, Anthony Roberts, appeals from the decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”) denying his application for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) and
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). (Doc. 1).
Mr. Roberts timely pursued and exhausted his administrative
remedies, and the decision of the Commissioner is ripe for
review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3).
The parties have consented to magistrate judge jurisdiction
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Doc. 9). For the
reasons that follow, the Commissioner's decision is due
to be affirmed.
FACTS, FRAMEWORK, AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Roberts applied for DIB and SSI benefits on July 17, 2012.
(R. 21). These claims were initially denied on November 19,
2012. (Id.). After holding a hearing on February 26,
2014, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied
Mr. Roberts' claims on June 19, 2014. (Id.; R.
30). Mr. Roberts was thirty years old at the time of the
ALJ's decision and has a GED. (R. 38-39). His past work
experience includes employment as a server in a restaurant,
an electrician helper, and a construction worker. (R. 39,
50-52, 148, 162). Mr. Roberts claims he became disabled on
August 6, 2009. (R. 21).
evaluating the disability of individuals over the age of
eighteen, the regulations prescribe a five-step sequential
evaluation process. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520, 416.920; Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274,
1278 (11th Cir. 2001). The first step requires a
determination of whether the claimant is performing
substantial gainful activity ("SGA"). 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i). If the claimant is engaged in
substantial gainful activity, he or she is not disabled and
the evaluation stops. Id. If the claimant is not
engaged in substantial gainful activity, the Commissioner
proceeds to consider the combined effects of all the
claimant's physical and mental impairments. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). These
impairments must be severe and must meet durational
requirements before a claimant will be found disabled.
Id. The decision depends on the medical evidence in
the record. See Hart v. Finch, 440 F.2d 1340, 1341
(5th Cir. 1971). If the claimant's impairments are not
severe, the analysis stops.
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii).
Otherwise, the analysis continues to step three, at which the
Commissioner determines whether the claimant's
impairments meet the severity of an impairment listed in 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the
impairments fall within this category, the claimant will be
found disabled without further consideration. Id. If
the impairments do not fall within the listings, the
Commissioner determines the claimant's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”). 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e).
four the Commissioner determines whether the impairments
prevent the claimant from returning to past relevant work. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If
the claimant is capable of performing past relevant work, he
or she is not disabled and the evaluation stops. Id.
If the claimant cannot perform past relevant work, the
analysis proceeds to the fifth step, at which the
Commissioner considers the claimant's RFC, as well as the
claimant's age, education, and past work experience to
determine whether he or she can perform other work.
Id.; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v),
416.920(a)(4)(v). If the claimant can do other work, he or
she is not disabled. Id.
the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found Mr. Roberts
had not engaged in SGA since the alleged onset of his
disability. (R. 23). At step two, the ALJ found Mr. Roberts
suffered from the following severe impairments: right eye
blindness, left shoulder osteoarthritis, partial tear of left
rotator cuff, left shoulder impingement, and cellulitis. (R.
three, the ALJ found Mr. Roberts did not have an impairment
or combination of impairments meeting or medically equaling
any of the listed impairments. (R. 25). Before proceeding to
step four, the ALJ determined Mr. Roberts had the RFC to
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR §§
404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) with the following limitations:
(1) no climbing of ropes, ladders, or scaffolds; (2) no work
at unprotected heights or with hazardous machinery; (3)
lifting with the left, non-dominant arm limited to no more
than ten pounds; (4) occasional overhead reaching
bilaterally; (5) work not requiring binocular vision with
long term blindness in one eye; and (6) no concentrated
exposure to extreme heat or cold. (R. 26).
four, the ALJ determined Mr. Roberts was unable to perform
any of his past relevant work. (R. 28). Because Mr.
Roberts' RFC did not allow for the full range of
sedentary work, the ALJ took testimony from a vocational
expert (“VE”). The ALJ found Mr. Roberts could
perform jobs such as surveillance system monitor, telephone
quote clerk, and assembler. (R. 29). The ALJ concluded his
decision by finding Mr. Roberts was not disabled under 20 CFR
404.1520(g) and 416.920(g). (Id.).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court's role in reviewing claims brought under the Social
Security Act is a narrow one. The scope of its review is
limited to determining (1) whether there is substantial
evidence in the record as a whole to support the findings of
the Commissioner, and (2) whether the correct legal standards
were applied. See Stone v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
544 F. App'x 839, 841 (11th Cir. 2013) (citing
Crawford v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155,
1158 (11th Cir. 2004)). A court gives deference to the
factual findings of the Commissioner, provided those findings
are supported by substantial evidence, but applies close
scrutiny to the legal conclusions. See Miles v.
Chater, 84 F.3d 1397, 1400 (11th Cir. 1996).
a court may not decide facts, weigh evidence, or substitute
its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Dyer v.
Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005) (quoting
Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1240 n.8 (11th
Cir. 2004)). “The substantial evidence standard permits
administrative decision makers to act with considerable
latitude, and ‘the possibility of drawing two
inconsistent conclusions from the evidence does not prevent
an administrative agency's finding from being supported
by substantial evidence.'” Parker v.
Bowen, 793 F.2d 1177, 1181 (11th Cir. 1986) (Gibson, J.,
dissenting) (quoting Consolo v. Fed. Mar.
Comm'n, 383 U.S. 607, 620 (1966)). Indeed, even if a
court finds that the proof preponderates against the
Commissioner's decision, it must affirm if the decision
is supported by substantial evidence. Miles, 84 F.3d
at 1400 (citing Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520,
1529 (11th Cir. 1990)).
no decision is automatic, for “despite th[e]
deferential standard [for review of claims], it is imperative
that th[is] Court scrutinize the record in its entirety to
determine the reasonableness of the decision reached.”
Bridges v. Bowen, 815 F.2d 622, 624 (11th Cir. 1987)
(citing Arnold v. Heckler, 732 F.2d 881, 883 (11th
Cir. 1984)). Moreover, failure to apply the ...