United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. BORDEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Joshua Kyle Duey filed this action on May 24, 2016, seeking
judicial review of a final adverse decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security denying his application for a
period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and
supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the
Social Security Act. Doc. 1. Duey applied for benefits for a
disability with an alleged onset date of December 10, 2012.
His applications were denied at the initial administrative
level. Duey then requested and received a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") on July 10, 2014.
Following the hearing, the ALJ denied Duey's claims. The
Appeals Council rejected a subsequent request for review,
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security (the
briefing complete, this case is now ripe for review pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). The parties
have consented to the entry of a final judgment by the
undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(b), Rule 73 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, and Rule 73.1 of the Local Rules for the United
States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.
Docs. 9 & 10. Based upon a review of the evidentiary
record, the parties' briefs, and the relevant authority,
the court finds that the Commissioner's decision is due
to be REVERSED and REMANDED, as explained below.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court reviews a social security case to determine whether the
Commissioner's decision "is supported by substantial
evidence and based upon proper legal standards."
Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1439 (11th Cir.
1997). The court "may not decide the facts anew, reweigh
the evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the
Commissioner, " but rather it "must defer to the
Commissioner's decision if it is supported by substantial
evidence." Miles v. Chafer, 84 F.3d 1397, 1400
(11th Cir. 1997) (internal quotation marks omitted). Indeed,
the court must affirm the Commissioner's decision
"if it is supported by substantial evidence and the
correct legal standards were applied." Kelly v.
Apfel, 185 F.3d 1211, 1213 (11th Cir. 1999) (citing
Graham v. Apfel, 129 F.3d 1420, 1422 (11th
evidence is more than a scintilla-i.e., the evidence must do
more than merely create a suspicion of the existence of a
fact, and must include such relevant evidence as a reasonable
person would accept as adequate to support the
conclusion." Jones ex rel. T.J.J, v. Astrue,
2011 WL 1706465, at *1 (M.D. Ala. May 5, 2011) (citing
Lewis, 125 F.3d at 1440). The court must scrutinize
the entire record to determine the reasonableness of the
decision reached. Hale v. Bowen, 831 F.2d 1007, 1010
(11th Cir. 1987). "If the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence, the district court will
affirm, even if the court would have reached a contrary
result as a finder of fact, and even if the court finds that
the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's
decision." Jones, 2011 WL 1706465, at *2
(citing Edwards v. Sullivan, 937 F.2d 580, 584 n.3
(11th Cir. 1991)). The court will reverse the
Commissioner's decision on plenary review if the decision
applies incorrect law, or if the decision fails to provide
the court with sufficient reasoning to determine that the
Commissioner properly applied the law. Cornelius v.
Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991);
Jones, 2011 WL 1706465, at *2 (citing Keeton v.
Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 21 F.3d 1064,
1066 (11th Cir. 1994)). There is no presumption that the
Commissioner's conclusions of law are valid. Id.
STATUTORY AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK To qualify for
disability benefits, a claimant must show 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); 42
U.S.C. § 416(i). A physical or mental impairment is
"an impairment that results from anatomical,
physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are
demonstrated by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory
diagnostic techniques." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(3). Duey
bears the burden of proving that he is disabled, and he is
responsible for producing evidence to support his claim.
See Ellison v. Barnhart, 355 F.3d 1272, 1276 (11th
of disability under the Social Security Act requires a
five-step analysis. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a).
Specifically, the Commissioner must determine in sequence:
(1) Is the claimant presently unemployed?
(2) Is the claimant's impairment severe?
(3) Does the claimant's impairment meet or equal one of
the specific impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404,
Subpt. P, App. 1?
(4) Is the claimant unable to perform his or her former
(5) Is the claimant unable to perform any other work within
McDaniel v. Bowen,
800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir.
1986). "An affirmative answer to any of the above
questions leads either to the next question, or, on steps
three and five, to a finding of disability. A negative answer
to any question, other than step three, leads to a
determination of 'not disabled.'" Id.
at 1030 (quoting 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)-(f)). "Once
the finding is made that a claimant cannot return to prior
work the burden of proof shifts to the Secretary to show
other work the claimant can do." Foote v.