United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
E. Ott Chief United States Magistrate Judge
Sharon Lynne Williams brings this action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking review of the final decision of
the Acting Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying her application for
disability insurance benefits. (Doc. 1). The case has been
assigned to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge
pursuant to this court's general order of reference. The
parties have consented to the jurisdiction of this court for
disposition of the matter. (Doc. 12). See 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(c), Fed.R.Civ.P. 73(a). Upon review of the record
and the relevant law, the undersigned finds that the
Commissioner's decision is due to be affirmed.
filed an application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits for a disability commencing
December 29, 2007. (R. 15, 272, 290). Following the initial denial
of her application, Williams requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Following the
hearing, the ALJ issued a decision, finding that Williams was
not disabled. (R. 15-27).
requested Appeals Council review. The Appeals Council vacated
the ALJ's decision and remanded the case for further
proceedings. (R. 43-56, 168-70). An additional hearing was
conducted. Thereafter, the ALJ issued the present decision
denying Williams's application for benefits. Williams
again requested review of the decision. The Appeals Council
denied her request. (R. 1-6). Williams then filed this action
for judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) &
1383(c)(3). (Doc. 1).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
narrowly circumscribed. The function of the court is to
determine whether the Commissioner's decision 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). The
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 that the proper legal analysis has
been conducted, it must reverse the ALJ's decision.
See Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46
(11th Cir. 1991).
STATUTORY AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
qualify for disability benefits under the Social Security
Act, 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.
§ 1382c(a)(3)(A). A physical or mental impairment is
“an impairment that results from anatomical,
physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are
demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory
diagnostic techniques.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(3); 42
U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(D).
of disability under the Social Security Act requires a five
step analysis. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4) and
416.920(a)(4). Specifically, the Commissioner must determine
whether the claimant: (1) is unable to engage in substantial
gainful activity; (2) has a severe medically determinable
physical or mental impairment; (3) has such an impairment
that meets or equals a Listing and meets the duration
requirements; (4) can perform his past relevant work, in
light of his residual functional capacity; and (5) can make
an adjustment to other work, in light of his residual
functional capacity, age, education, and work experience.
Evans v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 551 F. App'x
521, 524 (11th Cir. 2014) (citing 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)). “Once a finding is made that a
claimant cannot return to prior work the burden shifts to the
[Commissioner] to show other work the claimant can do.”
Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1559 (11th Cir. 1995)
(citation omitted). The Commissioner must further show that
such work exists in the national economy in significant
numbers. Id.; Evans, 551 F. App'x at