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Reed v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

September 11, 2017

JOHNNY A. REED, Plaintiff,
NANCY BERRYHILL, [1]Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Johnny A. Reed (hereinafter “Plaintiff”), seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his claim for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq., and 1381, et seq. On May 25, 2017, the parties consented to have the undersigned conduct any and all proceedings in this case. (Doc. 19). Thus, the action was referred to the undersigned to conduct all proceedings and order the entry of judgment in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73. Upon careful consideration of the administrative record and the memoranda of the parties, it is hereby ORDERED that the decision of the Commissioner be AFFIRMED.

         I. Procedural History

         Plaintiff protectively filed his application for benefits on October 1, 2012, alleging disability beginning April 30, 2011 based on diabetes, problems with legs, back problems, problems with right ankle, no sight in right eye, problems with left eye, and high blood pressure. (Tr. 133, 171, 183). Plaintiff's application was denied and upon timely request, he was granted an administrative hearing before Administrative Law Judge James Barter on February 10, 2014. (Tr. 34). Plaintiff attended the hearing with his counsel and provided testimony related to his claims. (Id.). A vocational expert (“VE”) also appeared at the hearing and provided testimony. (Tr. 54). On July 25, 2014, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding that Plaintiff is not disabled. (Tr. 30). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on January 15, 2016. (Tr. 1). Therefore, the ALJ's decision dated July 25, 2014, became the final decision of the Commissioner.

         Having exhausted his administrative remedies, Plaintiff timely filed the present civil action. (Doc. 1). Oral argument was conducted on June 1, 2017 (Doc. 21), and the parties agree that this case is now ripe for judicial review and is properly before this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).

         II. Issues on Appeal

         1. Whether substantial evidence supports the RFC for a range of sedentary work with the stated restrictions?

         2. Whether the ALJ fully considered the effect of Plaintiff's obesity on his ability to work?

         III. Factual Background

         Plaintiff was born on August 22, 1968, and was forty-five years of age at the time of his administrative hearing on February 10, 2014. (Tr. 34, 39, 171). Plaintiff graduated from high school. (Tr. 39).

         Plaintiff worked from 2003 to 2011 as a self-employed handyman and as a sales person in a hardware store from 1986 to 2001. (Tr. 39, 184). At the administrative hearing, Plaintiff testified that he cannot work now because he has problems with blindness in his right eye (detached retina), low vision in his left eye, diabetes for which he takes insulin, high blood pressure, leg pain (neuropathy), and low back pain.[2] (Tr. 42-47, 51).

         IV. Standard of Review

         In reviewing claims brought under the Act, this Court's role is a limited one. The Court's review is limited to determining 1) whether the decision of the Secretary is supported by substantial evidence and 2) whether the correct legal standards were applied.[3] Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990). A court may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Sewell v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 1065, 1067 (11th Cir. 1986). The Commissioner's findings of fact must be affirmed if they are based upon substantial evidence. Brown v. Sullivan, 921 F.2d 1233, 1235 (11th Cir. 1991); Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983) (holding substantial evidence is defined as “more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance” and consists of “such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”). In determining whether substantial evidence exists, a court must view the record as a whole, taking into account evidence favorable, as well as unfavorable, to the Commissioner's decision. Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir. 1986); Short v. Apfel, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10163, *4 (S.D. Ala. June 14, 1999).

         V. Statutory And Regulatory Framework

         An individual who applies for Social Security disability benefits must prove his or her disability. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1512, 416.912. Disability is defined as the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A); see also 20 C.F.R. ยงยง 404.1505(a), 416.905(a). The Social Security ...

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