United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), and 1383(c), plaintiff
Dustin Loyd seeks judicial review of a final adverse decision
of the Commissioner of Social Security. The Commissioner
denied Mr. Loyd's claim for a period of disability,
disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security
income. After careful review, the Court affirms the
Loyd applied for a period of disability, disability insurance
benefits, and supplemental security income on May 8, 2012.
(Doc. 8-6, pp. 2, 11). Mr. Loyd alleges that his disability
began on August 27, 2011. (Doc. 8-6, pp. 2, 11). The
Commissioner denied Mr. Loyd's application for benefits
on September 4, 2012. (Doc. 8-5, pp. 1-4). Mr. Loyd requested
a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Doc.
8-5, pp. 16-17). The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on
March 10, 2014. (Doc. 8-4, p. 36). On August 12, 2015, the
Appeals Council declined Mr. Loyd's request for review
(Doc. 8-3, pp. 2-7), making the Commissioner's decision
final and a proper candidate for this Court's judicial
review. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 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 factual 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 evaluating the administrative record, 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 substantial evidence supports the ALJ's
factual findings, then the Court “must affirm even if
the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's
findings.” Costigan v. Comm'r of 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 he 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 Mr. Loyd has engaged in substantial
gainful activity since August 27, 2011, the alleged onset
date. (Doc. 8-4, p. 41). Mr. Loyd held at least three jobs
between August 27, 2011 and the date of the ALJ's
decision. (Doc. 8-4, pp. 41-42). In 2011, Mr. Loyd worked as
a van driver transporting chicken catchers for Francisco
Poultry. (Doc. 8-4, p. 42; Doc. 8-6, p. 18.). Mr. Loyd worked
as a laborer for Quality Custom Marble in 2012. (Doc. 8-3, p.
46; Doc. 8-4, pp. 41; Doc. 8-6, p. 20; Doc. 8-7, p. 17). Mr.
Loyd then worked for Ivan Meeks. (Doc. 8-3, p. 46; Doc. 8-4,
p. 41; Doc. 8-6, p. 30). Although the ALJ found that Mr. Loyd
has engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged
onset date, the ALJ explained that because “there is a
12-month period where [Mr. Loyd] did not have substantial
gainful activity earnings reported or otherwise, the analysis
continues due to [Mr. Loyd's claim for supplemental
security income] and his date last insured of March of
2015.” (Doc. 8-4, p. 42).
determined that Mr. Loyd suffers from the following severe
impairments: epilepsy, hypertension, right shoulder
tendinopathy, enthesopathy of the knee, depression, anxiety,
and a learning disability. (Doc. 8-4, p. 42). The ALJ also
found that Mr. Loyd has the following non-severe impairments:
gastroesophageal reflex disease, back pain, and a history of
substance abuse. (Doc. 8-4, p. 42). The ALJ found that Mr.
Loyd 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. 8-4, pp. 42-46).
on Mr. Loyd's impairments, the ALJ examined Mr.
Loyd's residual functional capacity. The ALJ determined
that Mr. Loyd has the RFC to perform light work. The ALJ
explained that Mr. Loyd is:
precluded from climbing ladders, ropes[, ] or scaffolds and
from exposure to hazardous moving machinery, commercial
driving[, ] and unprotected heights. He can frequently climb
ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch[, ] and
crawl. He needs a temperature controlled environment in which
he has no more than occasional exposure to extreme
temperatures of cold or heat, wetness[, ] or humidity. The
claimant is limited to work that requires no more than the
understanding, remembering[, ] and carrying out of simple
instructions. Said activity can be sustained for two hour
periods and, with normal mid-morning, lunch, and
mid-afternoon breaks, can be sustained over an eight-hour
day. The claimant requires work with no more than occasional
decision-making, infrequent changes in the work setting, and
no more that occasional interaction with the public,
coworkers[, ] or supervisors.
(Doc. 8-4, p. 46). Based on this RFC, the ALJ concluded that
Mr. Loyd is unable to perform his past relevant work as a
laborer or van driver. (Doc. 8-4, pp. 52-53). Relying on
testimony from a vocational expert, the ALJ found that jobs
exist in the national economy that Mr. Loyd can perform,
including inspector/hand packager, garment sorter, and
shipping and receiving wares. (Doc. 8-4, p. 53). Accordingly,
the ALJ determined that Mr. Loyd has not been under a
disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act.
(Doc. 8-4, p. 54).
Loyd argues that he is entitled to relief from the ALJ's
decision because the ALJ erred in finding that Mr. Loyd does
not meet Listing 11.02 and 11.03 and because the Appeals
Council failed to properly consider evidence that Mr. Loyd
submitted after the ALJ's decision. Mr. Loyd also asks
the Court to remand this action so that the ALJ may
reconsider Mr. Loyd's subjective complaints of pain
consistent with Social Security Ruling 16-3p. The Court
examines each issue in turn.
Substantial Evidence Supports the ALJ's Decision That Mr.
Loyd Does ...