United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c), plaintiff
William Harper seeks judicial review of a final adverse
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. The
Commissioner denied Mr. Harper's claims for a period of
disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental
security income. After careful review, the Court affirms the
PROCEDURAL HISTORY AND BACKGROUND
Harper applied for a period of disability, disability
insurance benefits, and supplemental security income on July
26, 2012. (Doc. 9-4, pp. 3-4; Doc. 9-7, pp. 2, 4). Mr. Harper
alleges that his disability began on August 10, 2010. (Doc.
9-3, p. 48). The Commissioner initially denied Mr.
Harper's claims on October 25, 2012. (Doc. 9-5, pp.
8-17). Mr. Harper requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge (ALJ). (Doc. 9-5, pp. 24-25). The
ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on October 20, 2014. (Doc.
9-3, pp. 28-38). On April 12, 2016, the Appeals Council
declined Mr. Harper's request for review (Doc. 9-3, p.
2), making the ALJ's decision final and a proper
candidate for this Court's judicial review. See
42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
scope of review in this matter is limited. “When, as in
this case, the ALJ denies benefits and the Appeals Council
denies review, ” the Court “review[s] the
ALJ's ‘factual findings with deference' and
[his] ‘legal conclusions with close
scrutiny.'” Riggs v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 522 Fed.Appx. 509, 510-11 (11th Cir. 2013)
(quoting Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th
Court must determine whether substantial evidence in the
record supports the ALJ's factual findings.
“Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla and is
such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Crawford v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir.
2004). In evaluating the administrative record, the Court may
not “decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence,
” or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ.
Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 631 F.3d
1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011) (internal quotations and citation
omitted). If substantial evidence supports the ALJ's
factual findings, then the Court “must affirm even if
the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's
findings.” Costigan v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec.
Admin., 603 Fed.Appx. 783, 786 (11th Cir. 2015) (citing
Crawford, 363 F.3d at 1158).
respect to the ALJ's legal conclusions, the Court must
determine whether the ALJ applied the correct legal
standards. If the Court finds an error in the ALJ's
application of the law, or if the Court finds that the ALJ
failed to provide sufficient reasoning to demonstrate that
the ALJ conducted a proper legal analysis, then the Court
will reverse the ALJ's decision, unless the error is
harmless. Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143,
1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991).
SUMMARY OF THE ALJ'S DECISION
determine whether a claimant has proven that he is disabled,
an ALJ follows a five-step sequential evaluation process. The
(1) whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial
gainful activity; (2) whether the claimant has a severe
impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the
impairment meets or equals the severity of the specified
impairments in the Listing of Impairments; (4) based on a
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) assessment,
whether the claimant can perform any of his or her past
relevant work despite the impairment; and (5) whether there
are significant numbers of jobs in the national economy that
the claimant can perform given the claimant's RFC, age,
education, and work experience.
Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178.
case, the ALJ found that Mr. Harper has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since August 10, 2010, the
alleged onset date. (Doc. 9-3, p. 30). The ALJ determined
that Mr. Harper suffers from the following severe
impairments: degenerative disc disease and obesity. (Doc.
9-3, p. 30). Based on a review of the medical evidence, the
ALJ concluded that Mr. Harper does not have an impairment or
a combination of impairments that meets or medically equals
the severity of any of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Doc. 9-3, p. 31).
light of Mr. Harper's impairments, the ALJ evaluated Mr.
Harper's residual functional capacity or RFC. The ALJ
determined that Mr. Harper has the RFC to perform:
sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and
416.967(a) except the claimant can lift and carry ten (10)
pounds occasionally and less than ten (10) pounds frequently;
sit for six (6) hours in an eight-hour (8-hour) workday;
stand and walk for two (2) hours in an eight-hour (8-hour)
workday; never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds;
occasionally climb ramps and stairs; occasionally balance,
stoop, crouch, kneel, and crawl; never reach overhead; should
avoid all exposure to workplace hazards such as dangerous
machinery and unprotected heights; avoid concentrated
exposure to temperature extremes; avoid prolonged or
repetitive rotation, hyperextension, and flexion of the neck;
and can maintain attention and concentration for two-hour
(2-hour) periods at a time, notwithstanding pain.
(Doc. 9-3, p. 31).
on this RFC evaluation, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Harper is
not able to perform his past relevant work. (Doc. 9-3, p.
36). Relying on testimony from a vocational expert, the ALJ
found that jobs exist in the national economy that Mr. Harper
can perform, including dowel inspector, cuff folder, and
button reclaimer. (Doc. 9-3, p. 37). Accordingly, the ALJ
determined that Mr. Harper is not disabled within the ...