United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
BRADLEY MURRAY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Cheryl Marie Steele brings this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g), seeking judicial review of a final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“the
Commissioner”) denying her claim for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the
Social Security Act (“the Act). The parties have
consented to the exercise of jurisdiction by the Magistrate
Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), for all
proceedings in this Court. (Doc. 14 (“In accordance
with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73,
the parties in this case consent to have a United States
Magistrate Judge conduct any and all proceedings in this
case, … order the entry of a final judgment, and
conduct all post-judgment proceedings.”)). See
also Doc. 15. Upon consideration of the administrative
record, Steele's brief, the Commissioner's brief, and
oral argument presented at the September 14, 2017 hearing
before the undersigned Magistrate Judge, it is determined
that the Commissioner's decision denying benefits should
applied for a period of disability and DIB, under Title II of
the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 423 - 425, on October 31,
2013, alleging disability beginning on December 1, 2010. (Tr.
132-33, 134). Her application was denied at the initial level
of administrative review on December 11, 2013. (Tr. 67-71).
On December 26, 2013, Steele requested a hearing by an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Tr. 73-74). Steele initially
appeared at a hearing before the ALJ on January 26, 2015.
(Tr. 51-59). That hearing was continued in order for Steele
to obtain legal counsel. (Tr. 58). After obtaining counsel,
Steele appeared at a supplemental hearing on June 8, 2015.
(Tr. 30-50). The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding
that Steele was not under a disability during the applicable
time period on June 26, 2015. (Tr. 20-25). Steele appealed
the ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council, and, on
October 19, 2016, the Appeals Council denied her request for
review of the ALJ's decision, thereby making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
(Tr. 1-3, 16).
exhausting her administrative remedies, Steele sought
judicial review in this Court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g). (Doc. 1). The Commissioner filed an
answer and the social security transcript on March 6, 2017.
(Docs. 6, 7). Both parties filed briefs setting forth their
respective positions. (Docs. 9, 10). Oral argument was held
before the undersigned Magistrate Judge on September 14,
2017. (Doc. 13). The case is now ripe for decision.
CLAIM ON APPEAL
alleges that the ALJ's decision to deny her benefits is
in error for the following reason:
1. The ALJ erred by failing to retain a medical expert to
determine the onset date of Plaintiff's impairments.
(Doc. 9 at p. 2).
was born on March 13, 1958, and was 55 years old at the time
she filed her claim for benefits. (Tr. 34). Steele alleged
disability due to scoliosis, arthritis, hearing loss, feet
problems, carpal tunnel syndrome, lower back problems, neck
pain down to her right arm with numbness in her right arm,
high blood pressure, and acid reflux. (Tr. 159). She
graduated from high school in 1976 and did not take special
education classes. (Tr. 160). She worked as a sewing machine
operator from 1984 until 2004. (Tr. 193). Steele stopped
working in 2004 because the company closed. (Tr. 35). Steele
testified that she did not look for work immediately because
she wanted to stay home for awhile, but when she wanted to go
back to work in 2008, she was not able to because of back
problems. (Tr. 35). Steele testified that she is primarily
sedentary during the day, but she does cook, clean house, and
grocery shop. (Tr. 36-37). After conducting a hearing, the
ALJ made a determination that Steele was not under a
disability at any time from December 1, 2005, the alleged
onset date, through December 31, 2010, the date last insured,
and thus, was not entitled to benefits. (Tr. 20-25).
considering all of the evidence, the ALJ made the following
findings that are relevant to the issues presented in his
June 26, 2015 decision:
3. Through the date last insured, the claimant had
the following medically determinable impairment: scoliosis
(20 CFR 404.1521et seq.).
4. Through the date last insured, the claimant did
not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
significantly limited the ability to perform basic
work-related activities for 12 consecutive months; therefore,
the claimant did not have a severe impairment ...