United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Jasper Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
G. CORNELIUS U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Plaintiff, Cameron Alexander, appeals from the decision of
the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
("Commissioner") denying his application for
Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). (Doc. 1).
Mr. Alexander timely pursued and exhausted his administrative
remedies, and the decision of the Commissioner is ripe for
review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3).
For the reasons that follow, the Commissioner's decision
is due to be affirmed.
FACTS, FRAMEWORK, AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Alexander was thirty-eight years old at the time of the
Administrative Law Judge's ("ALJ's")
decision. (R. 86). He has a high school education and speaks
English. (Id.). Mr. Alexander's past experience
includes employment as a warehouse worker, a stocker in the
retail industry, and a boilermaker apprentice. (R. 86). These
jobs are classified at the heavy exertional level.
(Id.). Mr. Alexander claims he became disabled on
April 29, 2009, due to back injuries and high blood pressure.
(R. 252). Plaintiff applied for DIB on September 6, 2012. (R.
74). After holding a hearing, the ALJ denied Mr.
Alexander's claims on July 11, 2014. (R. 88). Plaintiff
timely appealed to this court.
evaluating the disability of individuals over the age of
eighteen, the regulations prescribe a five-step sequential
evaluation process. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520, 416.920; Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274,
1278 (11th Cir. 2001). The first step requires a
determination whether the claimant is performing substantial
gainful activity (“SGA”). 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(i). If the claimant is engaged in SGA, he or
she is not disabled and the evaluation stops. Id. If
the claimant is not engaged in SGA, the Commissioner proceeds
to consider the combined effects of all the claimant's
physical and mental impairments. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). These impairments must
be severe and must meet durational requirements before a
claimant will be found disabled. Id. The decision
depends on the medical evidence in the record. See Hart
v. Finch, 440 F.2d 1340, 1341 (5th Cir. 1971). If the
claimant's impairments are not severe, the analysis
stops. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii),
416.920(a)(4)(ii). Otherwise, the analysis continues to step
three, at which the Commissioner determines whether the
claimant's impairments meet the severity of an impairment
listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii).
If the impairments fall within this category, the claimant
will be found disabled without further consideration.
Id. If the impairments do not fall within the
listings, the Commissioner determines the claimant's
residual functional capacity ("RFC"). 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e).
four the Commissioner determines whether the impairments
prevent the claimant from returning to past relevant work. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If
the claimant is capable of performing past relevant work, he
or she is not disabled, and the evaluation stops.
Id. If the claimant cannot perform past relevant
work, the analysis proceeds to the fifth step, at which the
Commissioner considers the claimant's RFC, as well as the
claimant's age, education, and past work experience, to
determine whether he or she can perform other work.
Id.; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v),
416.920(a)(4)(v). If the claimant can do other work, he or
she is not disabled. Id.
the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found Mr.
Alexander had not engaged in SGA during the relevant time
period. (R. 77). At step two, the ALJ found Plaintiff
suffered from the following severe impairments: anxiety,
hypertension, torn cartilage in his right knee (for which he
underwent arthroscopic repair in 1986), multiple bulging
discs in his lumbar region, thoracic compression fractures
dating to 2009, mild foraminal stenosis, and obstructive
sleep apnea. (Id.).
three, the ALJ found Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments meeting or medically equaling any
of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1. (R. 77). The ALJ noted that no medical expert
concluded Mr. Alexander's impairments met the listed
impairments and the record evidence would not have supported
such a conclusion. (R. 77-79). In making his findings, the
ALJ reviewed Plaintiff's allegations of pain.
proceeding to step four, the ALJ determined Mr. Alexander had
the RFC to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR
§§ 404.1567(b), with the following limitations: (1)
no climbing or working at unprotected heights; (2) no
overhead reaching or lifting using his left arm; (3) no
driving; (4) no upper or lower extremity pushing and/or
pulling; (5) no working with or around the general public;
and (6) occasional stooping and crouching. (R. 79). At step
four, the ALJ determined Mr. Alexander was unable to perform
any of his past relevant work. (R. 85- 86). Because
Plaintiff's RFC did not allow for the full range of
sedentary work, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a
vocational expert ("VE") for finding a significant
number of jobs in the national economy Plaintiff can perform.
(R. 86-87). The ALJ concluded by finding Mr. Alexander was
not disabled. (R. 87).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court's role in reviewing claims brought under the Social
Security Act is a narrow one. The scope of its review is
limited to determining (1) whether there is substantial
evidence in the record as a whole to support the findings of
the Commissioner, and (2) whether the correct legal standards
were applied. See Stone v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
544 Fed.Appx. 839, 841 (11th Cir. 2013) (citing Crawford
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th
Cir. 2004)). A court gives deference to the factual findings
of the Commissioner, provided those findings are supported by
substantial evidence, but applies close scrutiny to the legal
conclusions. See Miles v. Chater, 84 F.3d 1397, 1400
(11th Cir. 1996).
a court may not decide facts, weigh evidence, or substitute
its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Dyer v.
Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005) (quoting
Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1240 n.8 (11th
Cir. 2004)). "The substantial evidence standard permits
administrative decision makers to act with considerable
latitude, and 'the possibility of drawing two
inconsistent conclusions from the evidence does not prevent
an administrative agency's finding from being supported
by substantial evidence.'" Parker v. Bowen,
793 F.2d 1177, 1181 (11th Cir. 1986) (Gibson, J., dissenting)
(quoting Consolo v. Fed. Mar. Comm'n, 383 U.S.
607, 620 (1966)). Indeed, even if a court finds that the
proof preponderates against the Commissioner's decision,
it must affirm if the decision is supported by substantial
evidence. Miles, 84 F.3d at 1400 (citing Martin
v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990)).
no decision is automatic, for "despite th[e] deferential
standard [for review of claims], it is imperative that th[is]
Court scrutinize the record in its entirety to determine the
reasonableness of the decision reached." Bridges v.
Bowen, 815 F.2d 622, 624 (11th Cir. 1987) (citing
Arnold v. Heckler, 732 F.2d 881, 883 (11th Cir.
1984)). Moreover, failure to apply the correct legal
standards is grounds for reversal. See Bowen v.
Heckler, 748 F.2d 629, 635 (11th Cir. 1984).