United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
JANA L. CRANS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. BORDEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Jana L. Crans filed this action on November 22, 2016, seeking
judicial review of a final adverse decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security denying her application for a
period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and
supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the
Social Security Act. Doc. 1. Crans applied for disability
benefits with an alleged onset date of March 31, 2009. Her
applications were denied at the initial administrative level.
Crans then requested and received a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on January 7,
2015. Following the hearing, the ALJ denied Crans'
claims. The Appeals Council rejected a subsequent request for
review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security (the
briefing complete, this case is now ripe for review pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). The parties
have consented to the entry of a final judgment by the
undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(b), Rule 73 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, and Rule 73.1 of the Local Rules for the United
States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.
Docs. 10 & 11. Based upon a review of the evidentiary
record, the parties' briefs, and the relevant legal
authority, the court finds that the Commissioner's
decision is due to be AFFIRMED.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court reviews a social security case to determine whether the
Commissioner's decision “is supported by
substantial evidence and based upon proper legal
standards.” Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436,
1439 (11th Cir. 1997). The court “may not decide the
facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute its judgment
for that of the Commissioner, ” but rather it
“must defer to the Commissioner's decision if it is
supported by substantial evidence.” Miles v.
Chater, 84 F.3d 1397, 1400 (11th Cir. 1997) (citations
and internal quotation marks omitted). Indeed, the court must
affirm the Commissioner's decision “if it is
supported by substantial evidence and the correct legal
standards were applied.” Kelly v. Apfel, 185
F.3d 1211, 1213 (11th Cir. 1999) (citing Graham v.
Apfel, 129 F.3d 1420, 1422 (11th Cir. 1997)).
evidence is more than a scintilla-i.e., the evidence must do
more than merely create a suspicion of the existence of a
fact, and must include such relevant evidence as a reasonable
person would accept as adequate to support the
conclusion.” Jones ex rel. T.J.J. v. Astrue,
2011 WL 1706465, at *1 (M.D. Ala. May 5, 2011) (citing
Lewis, 125 F.3d at 1440). The court must scrutinize
the entire record to determine the reasonableness of the
decision reached. Hale v. Bowen, 831 F.2d 1007, 1010
(11th Cir. 1987). “If the Commissioner's decision
is supported by substantial evidence, the district court will
affirm, even if the court would have reached a contrary
result as a finder of fact, and even if the court finds that
the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's
decision.” Jones, 2011 WL 1706465, at *2
(citing Edwards v. Sullivan, 937 F.2d 580, 584 n.3
(11th Cir. 1991)). The court will reverse the
Commissioner's decision on plenary review if the decision
applies incorrect law, or if the decision fails to provide
the court with sufficient reasoning to determine that the
Commissioner properly applied the law. Cornelius v.
Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991);
Jones, 2011 WL 1706465, at *2 (citing Keeton v.
Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 21 F.3d 1064,
1066 (11th Cir. 1994)). There is no presumption that the
Commissioner's conclusions of law are valid. Id.
STATUTORY AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
qualify for disability benefits, 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. § 416(i). A physical or mental
impairment is “an impairment that results from
anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities
which are demonstrated by medically acceptable clinical and
laboratory diagnostic techniques.” 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(3). Crans bears the burden of proving that she is
disabled, and she is responsible for producing evidence to
support her claim. See Ellison v. Barnhart, 355 F.3d
1272, 1276 (11th Cir. 2003).
of disability under the Social Security Act requires a
five-step analysis. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a).
Specifically, the Commissioner must determine in sequence:
(1) Is the claimant presently unemployed?
(2) Is the claimant's impairment severe?
(3) Does the claimant's impairment meet or equal one of
the specific impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404,
Subpt. P, App. 1?
(4) Is the claimant unable to perform his or her former
(5) Is the claimant unable to perform any other work within