United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
H. ENGLAND, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Tony Paul Masters (“Masters”) seeks review,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), § 205(g) of the
Social Security Act, of a final decision of the Commissioner
of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”), denying his application for a
period of disability, Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”), and Supplemental Social Security Income
(“SSI”). Masters timely pursued and exhausted his
administrative remedies. The case is therefore ripe for
review under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). The
undersigned has carefully considered the record and, for the
reasons stated below, the Commissioner's decision is
REVERSED and this action is
REMANDED for further proceedings.
Factual and Procedural History
filed an application for a period of disability and DIB on
March 7, 2012, (Tr. 291-293) and an application for SSI on
March 21, 2012, alleging disability beginning September 30,
2011. (Tr. 294-298). Masters was a thirty-eight year old male
on December 31, 2012, his date last insured.
(“DLI”). (Tr. 76, 103). Masters has an
eighth-grade education and past relevant work as a truck
driver and a heavy equipment operator. (Tr. 12-13, 73). The
Commissioner initially denied Masters' application, (Tr.
168), and Masters requested a hearing before an ALJ where he
appeared on April 4, 2013. (Tr. 54-75, 181). A supplemental
hearing was conducted on January 30, 2014. (Tr. 34-53). After
the hearings, the ALJ denied Masters' claim on February
20, 2014. (Tr. 73). Masters sought review by the Appeals
Council (Tr. 232-234), which vacated the ALJ's decision
and remanded the case on June 5, 2014. (Tr. 110-112). Another
hearing was held on November 25, 2014 (Tr. 9-33), and on
March 6, 2015, the ALJ again denied Masters' claim. (Tr.
140-165). Masters again requested review by the Appeals
Council (Tr. 5-6), but it denied the request on June 3, 2016.
(Tr. 1). On that date, the ALJ's decision became the
final decision of the Commissioner. On August 3, 2016,
Masters initiated this action. (See doc. 1).
Standard of Review
court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
narrowly circumscribed. The function of this Court is to
determine whether the decision of the Commissioner is
supported by substantial evidence and whether proper legal
standards were applied. Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 390, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 1422 (1971); Wilson v.
Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1221 (11th Cir. 2002). This
court must “scrutinize the record as a whole to
determine if the decision reached is reasonable and supported
by substantial evidence.” Bloodsworth v.
Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983).
Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. It is “more than a
scintilla, but less than a preponderance.” Id.
Court must uphold factual findings that are supported by
substantial evidence. However, it reviews the ALJ's legal
conclusions de novo because no presumption of
validity attaches to the ALJ's determination of the
proper legal standards to be applied. Davis v.
Shalala, 985 F.2d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 1993). If the
court finds an error in the ALJ's application of the law,
or if the ALJ fails to provide the court with sufficient
reasoning for determining the proper legal analysis has been
conducted, it must reverse the ALJ's decision.
Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46 (11th
Statutory and Regulatory Framework
qualify for disability benefits and establish his or her
entitlement for a period of disability, a claimant must be
disabled as defined by the Social Security Act and the
Regulations promulgated thereunder. The Regulations define
“disabled” as “the inability to do 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
twelve (12) months.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a). To
establish entitlement to disability benefits, a claimant must
provide evidence of a “physical or mental
impairment” which “must result from anatomical,
physiological, or psychological abnormalities which can be
shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory
diagnostic techniques.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1508.
Regulations provide a five-step process for determining
whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(i-v). The Commissioner must determine in
(1) whether the claimant is currently employed;
(2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment;
(3) whether the claimant's impairment meets or equals an
impairment listed by ...