United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
SCOTT COOGLER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff, Alison Marceau, appeals from the decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”), who issued a partially
favorable decision on her applications for Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”), a period of disability,
and Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). Ms.
Marceau timely pursued and exhausted her administrative
remedies and the decision of the Commissioner is
ripe for review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g),
Marceau was thirty-three years old at the time of the
Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ's”)
decision, and she has a high school education. (Tr. at 159,
255.) Her past work experiences include employment as a
billing clerk, a data entry clerk, a call receiver, and a
waitress. (Tr. at 45.) Ms. Marceau claims that she became
disabled on April 5, 2008, due to idiopathic peripheral
neuropathy, headaches/migraines, generalized anxiety
disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
(“ADHD”), depression, and asthma. (Tr. at 33,
Social Security Administration has established a five-step
sequential evaluation process for determining whether an
individual is disabled and thus eligible for DIB or SSI.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920;
see also Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th
Cir. 2001). The evaluator will follow the steps in order
until making a finding of either disabled or not disabled; if
no finding is made, the analysis will proceed to the next
step. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4),
416.920(a)(4). The first step requires the evaluator to
determine whether the plaintiff is engaged in substantial
gainful activity (“SGA”). See Id.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). If the
plaintiff is not engaged in SGA, the evaluator moves on to
the next step.
second step requires the evaluator to consider the combined
severity of the plaintiff's medically determinable
physical and mental impairments. See Id.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). An
individual impairment or combination of impairments that is
not classified as “severe” and does not satisfy
the durational requirements set forth in 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1509 and 416.909 will result in a finding of
not disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). The decision depends
on the medical evidence contained in the record. See Hart
v. Finch, 440 F.2d 1340, 1341 (5th Cir. 1971)
(concluding that “substantial medical evidence in the
record” adequately supported the finding that plaintiff
was not disabled).
the third step requires the evaluator to consider whether the
plaintiff's impairment or combination of impairments
meets or is medically equal to the criteria of impairment
listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii),
416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the criteria of a listed impairment
and the durational requirements set forth in 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1509 and 416.909 are satisfied, the
evaluator will make a finding of disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii).
plaintiff's impairment or combination of impairments does
not meet or medically equal a listed impairment, the
evaluator must determine the plaintiff's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) before proceeding to
the fourth step. See Id. §§ 404.1520(e),
416.920(e). The fourth step requires the evaluator to
determine whether the plaintiff has the RFC to perform the
requirements of his past relevant work. See Id.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If the
plaintiff's impairment or combination of impairments does
not prevent him from performing his past relevant work, the
evaluator will make a finding of not disabled. See
fifth and final step requires the evaluator to consider the
plaintiff's RFC, age, education, and work experience in
order to determine whether the plaintiff can make an
adjustment to other work. See Id. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v). If the plaintiff can
perform other work, the evaluator will find him not disabled.
Id.; see also 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(g), 416.920(g). If the plaintiff cannot perform
other work, the evaluator will find him disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), 404.1520(g),
the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found that Ms.
Marceau last met the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through June 30, 2009. (Tr. at
He further determined that Ms. Marceau has not engaged in SGA
since the alleged onset of her disability, April 5, 2008.
(Tr. at 35.) According to the ALJ, prior to December 19,
2013, Plaintiff did not have a severe impairment or
combination of impairments. (Tr. at 36.) However, he
determined that since December 19, 2013, Plaintiff has had
the following severe impairments: ADHD, major depressive
disorder, social phobia, somatoform traits, and cluster B
personality features. (Tr. at 42.) However, he found that
these impairment neither met nor medically equaled the
severity of any of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Id.) With regard to
Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ found that since December 19,
2013, she could perform light work with the following
additional limitations: she can sit up to six hours in an
eight hour day but no more than two hours at a time, stand up
to four hours in an eight hour day but no more than one hour
at a time, and walk up to three hours in an eight hour day
but no more than two hours at a time; she can continuously
reach, handle, push, pull, feel, finger, use foot controls,
or climb ramps or stairs; she can frequently climb ladders or
scaffolds, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, or operate
motor vehicles; she can occasionally perform in environments
of humidity, wetness, or vibration, but she should not
perform in environments of temperature extremes, both hot and
cold; in addition to normal workday breaks, she will need to
have breaks that allow her to move away from the workstation
for more than five minutes every two hours during the regular
workday; she will be absent more than three days per month,
and she will be off task more than twenty percent of the
workday. (Tr. at 44.)
to the ALJ, Ms. Marceau is a “younger individual,
” and she has “at least a high school education,
” as those terms are defined by the regulations. (Tr.
at 45.) He determined that Plaintiff has “no
transferable skills from any past relevant work and/or
transferability of skills is not an issue in this
case.” (Id.) The ALJ enlisted a vocational
expert (“VE”) in conjunction with the
Medical-Vocational Guidelines, 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 2 to use as a framework for finding that since
December 19, 2013, there are no jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff
can perform. (Tr. at 45.) The ALJ concluded his findings by
stating that while Plaintiff was not under a disability
within the meaning of the Social Security Act at any time
through June 30, 2009, the date last insured, Plaintiff
became “disabled on December 19, 2013, and has
continued to be disabled through the date of this
decision.” (Tr. at 46.)
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)). This 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).
this 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
this Court finds that the proof preponderates ...