United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and § 1383(c), plaintiff
Therese Sims Ervin seeks judicial review of a final adverse
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. The
Commissioner denied her claims for a period of disability,
disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security
income. For the reasons stated below, the Court affirms the
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Ervin applied for a period of disability, disability
insurance benefits, and supplemental security income on July
29, 2010. (Doc. 7-6, pp. 10-20). Ms. Ervin alleges that her
disability began on July 20, 2010. (Doc. 7-5, p.
The Commissioner initially denied Ms. Ervin's claims on
November 8, 2010. (Doc. 7-5, pp. 2-11). Ms. Ervin requested a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Doc. 7-5,
p. 14). The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on August 31,
2012. (Doc. 7-4, pp. 16-33). Ms. Ervin asked the Appeals
Council to review the ALJ's decision. (See Doc.
7-4, p. 39). On September 26, 2013, the Appeals Council
completed its review and remanded the matter to the ALJ.
(Doc. 7-4, pp. 39-41).
conducted a new hearing and issued a new decision on
September 8, 2014, once again finding that Ms. Ervin is not
disabled. (Doc. 7-3, pp. 19-44). Ms. Ervin asked the Appeals
Council to review the ALJ's new opinion. (Doc. 7-3, p.
17). On October 6, 2015, the Appeals Council declined her
request (Doc. 7-3, pp. 2-5), making the Commissioner's
decision final and a proper candidate for this Court's
judicial review. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and
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 Cir. 2001)).
Court must determine whether the record contains substantial
evidence that supports the ALJ's 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 making this evaluation, 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 decision, then
the Court "must affirm even if the evidence
preponderates against the Commissioner's findings."
Costigan v. Comm 'r, 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 AL J'S DECISION
To determine whether a claimant has proven that she is
disabled, an ALJ follows a five-step sequential evaluation
process. The ALJ considers:
(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.
September 8, 2014 decision, the ALJ found that Ms. Ervin has
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 20,
2010, the alleged onset date. (Doc. 7-3, p.
The ALJ determined that Ms. Ervin suffers from the following
severe impairments: degenerative disc disorder with facet
arthrosis; polyneuropathy; chronic pain syndrome; bilateral
foot impairments; diabetes mellitus; thyroid impairment;
obesity; affective mood disorder; pain disorder; borderline
personality disorder; and an opioid dependence with a remote
history of polysubstance abuse. (Doc. 7-3, p. 25). The ALJ
also found that Ms. Ervin has the following non-severe
impairments: obstructive sleep apnea; mild respiratory
disease; hypertension; migraines; knee strain; prolapsed
uterus; fibromyalgia; allergies; dermatitis; and irritable
bowel syndrome. (Doc. 7-3, pp. 25-26). Based on a review of
the medical ...