United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
STEVEN R. BRANT, Plaintiff,
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
F. BIVINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Steven R. Brant (hereinafter “Plaintiff”), seeks
judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security denying his claim for a period of disability
and disability insurance benefits under Title II of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et
seq. On May 2, 2017, the parties consented to have the
undersigned conduct any and all proceedings in this case.
(Doc. 14). 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.
protectively filed his application for benefits on April 14,
2015, alleging disability beginning February 23, 2015, based
on “PTSD, TBI, memory loss/short term, [and] severe
headaches.” (Tr. 135, 153, 157). Plaintiff's
application was denied and upon timely request, he was
granted an administrative hearing before Administrative Law
Judge Vickie Evans on January 7, 2016. (Tr. at 37). 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. 59). On February 3, 2016, the ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision finding that Plaintiff is not disabled.
(Tr. 32). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review on April 15, 2016. (Tr. 1). Therefore, the
ALJ's decision dated February 3, 2016, became the final
decision of the Commissioner.
exhausted his administrative remedies, Plaintiff timely filed
the present civil action. (Doc. 1). Oral argument was
conducted on May 31, 2017 (Doc. 17), 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).
Issues on Appeal
Whether the ALJ erred in failing to assign significant weight
to the opinions of evaluating psychologist, Dr. Joseph G.
Law, examining psychologist, Dr. Jennifer Jackson, Psy.D.,
and therapist, Ms. Elizabeth Wharton, MS, LMPT, while
assigning great weight to the opinions of consultative
psychologist, Dr. Thomas Bennett, Ph.D., and State Agency
psychologist, Dr. Donald Hinton, Ph.D.?
Whether substantial evidence supports the RFC for a range of
work at all exertional levels with the stated non-exertional
was born on October 7, 1982, and was thirty-three years of
age at the time of his administrative hearing on January 7,
2016. (Tr. 37, 45). Plaintiff graduated from high school and
completed an associates degree in college in applied science.
was a Sergeant in the military (Army National Guard) from
2001 to 2004 serving in the military police. (Tr. 45-46). He
received an honorable discharge and currently receives VA
disability benefits with a rating of 70% for post traumatic
stress disorder. (Tr. 47, 372).
worked as a physical therapist assistant from 2009 to
February 2015. (Tr. 49, 164). He stopped working when he
received his increased VA disability rating. (Tr. 51-52).
administrative hearing, Plaintiff testified that he cannot
work due to memory problems, anxiety problems, problems
maintaining a schedule, anger, and flashbacks. (Tr. 55-56,
58). He receives therapy at the VA. (Tr. 56). His only
medication is Ambien to help him sleep at night. (Tr. 57,
Standard of Review
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. 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).
Statutory And ...