United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
H. ENGLAND, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Shirley Hildreth (“Hildreth”) 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 her application for a
period of disability, disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) and supplemental security income
(“SSI”). (Doc. 1). Hildreth timely pursued and
exhausted her administrative remedies. This case is therefore
ripe for review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). 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 her application for a period of disability, DIB, and
SSI on March 13, 2012, alleging an initial onset date of
April 26, 2011. (Tr. 279, 284). Hildreth was a
forty-three-year-old female on December 31, 2013, her date
last insured. (“DLI”). (Tr. 76, 103). Hildreth
has a GED and past relevant work as a certified nursing
assistant. (Tr. 103). The Commissioner initially denied
Hildreth's application, (Tr. 196), and Hildreth requested
a hearing before an ALJ where she appeared on September 5,
2013. (Tr. 202, 99). After a hearing, the ALJ denied
Hildreth's claim on June 27, 2014. (Tr. 73). Hildreth
sought review by the Appeals Council, but it declined her
request on January 13, 2016. (Tr. 1). On that date, the
ALJ's decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner. On March 11, 2016, Hildreth initiated this
action. (See doc.
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 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 the [Commissioner];
(4) whether the claimant can perform his or her past work;
(5) whether the claimant is capable of performing any work in
the national economy.
Pope v. Shalala, 998 F.2d 473, 477 (7th Cir. 1993)
(citing to the formerly applicable C.F.R. section),
overruled on other grounds by Johnson v. Apfel, 189
F.3d 561, 562-63 (7th Cir. 1999); accord McDaniel v.
Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir. 1986). “Once
the claimant has satisfied steps One and Two, she will
automatically be found disabled if she suffers from a listed
impairment. If the claimant does not have a listed impairment
but cannot perform her work, the burden shifts to the
[Commissioner] to show that the claimant can perform some
other job.” Pope, 998 F.2d at 477; accord
Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1559 (11th Cir. 1995).
The Commissioner must further show such work exists in the
national economy in significant numbers. Id.
Findings of the Administrative Law Judge
consideration of the entire record and application of the
sequential evaluation process, the ALJ made the following
One, the ALJ found Hildreth met the insured status
requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31,
2013, and that Hildreth had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since April 26, 2011, the alleged onset date
of her disability. (Tr. 78). At Step Two, the ALJ found
Hildreth has the following severe impairments: morbid
obesity; status post open reduction internal fixation, right
hip, due to fracture; status post arthroscopic surgery, right
knee; osteoarthritis, upper extremities; history of gout; and
major depressive disorder. (Id.). The ALJ noted that
Hildreth also suffers from asthma with controlled
medications, migraines, hypertension, history of anemia, one
event of hypoglycemia, and generalized anxiety; however, the
ALJ found these impairments only caused a slight limitation
in Hildreth's capacity for work activity. (Id.)
At Step Three, the ALJ found Hildreth does not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 80).
proceeding to Step Four, the ALJ determined Hildreth's
residual functioning capacity (“RFC”), which is
the most a claimant can do despite her impairments.
See 20 C.F.R. ...