United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is the Social Security Administration
Commissioner's (“Commissioner”) Motion To
Alter or Amend Memorandum Opinion and Order (the
“Motion”) pursuant to Rule 59(e). (Doc. 15). Both
parties have filed their respective briefs, and this Motion
is ripe for the Court's review.
13, 2016, Plaintiff Jahala Collins (“Collins”)
filed her appeal seeking a review of a final adverse decision
of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. On
July 25, 2017, this Court issued its Memorandum Opinion
(“Opinion”) regarding Ms. Collins's appeal.
(Doc. 13). In that Opinion, the Court found “that the
ALJ committed reversible error in his disability analysis by
using Ms. Collins's gross income to determine that her
consignment owner job was [substantial gainful
activity].” (Id. at 9). The Court then
reversed the Commissioner's decision. (Doc. 14 at 1).
Statutory and Regulatory Framework
qualify for disability benefits and establish his or 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 an entitlement to disability benefits, a claimant
must provide evidence about a “physical or mental
impairment” that “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 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). The sequential analysis
goes as follows:
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
Pope, 998 F.2d at 477; accord Foote v.
Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1559 (11th Cir. 1995). The
Commissioner must further show that such work exists in the
national economy in significant numbers. Id.
Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 59(e) concerns motions to alter
or amend judgments. Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). The standard
governing Rule 59(e) motions is straightforward:
[The Eleventh Circuit] review[s] the denial of a Rule 59
motion for abuse of discretion. Drago v. Jenne, 453
F.3d 1301, 1305 (11th Cir. 2006). “The only grounds for
granting [a Rule 59] motion are newly-discovered evidence or
manifest errors of law or fact.” In re
Kellogg, 197 F.3d 1116, 1119 (11th Cir. 1999).
“[A] Rule 59(e) motion [cannot be used] to relitigate
old matters, raise argument or present evidence that could
have been raised prior to the entry of judgment.”
Michael Linet, Inc. v. Village of Wellington, Fla.,
408 F.3d 757, 763 (11th Cir. 2005).
Arthur v. King, 500 F.3d 1335, 1343 (11th Cir.
Standards for Reviewing a Commissioner's
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 (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). This Court will determine that
the ALJ's opinion is supported by substantial evidence if
it finds “such relevant evidence as a reasonable person
would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Id. Substantial evidence is “more than a
scintilla, but less than a preponderance.” Id.
Factual findings that are supported by substantial evidence
must be upheld by the court.
ALJ's legal conclusions, however, are reviewed 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 that the
proper legal analysis has been conducted, the ALJ's
decision must be reversed. Cornelius v. Sullivan,
936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991).
Findings of the Administrative Law Judge
consideration of the entire record, the ALJ made the
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2017.
2. Although the claimant alleged an onset date of September
30, 2012, the undersigned finds that the claimant engaged in
substantial gainful activity from January 1, 2011[, ] to at
least December 31, 2012, and likely thereafter (20 CFR
404.1571 et seq.).
3. There has possibly been a continuous 12-month period
during which the claimant did not engage in substantial
gainful activity. The remaining findings address that period.
4. The claimant has the following severe impairments: mild
chronic kidney disease; obesity; neuropathy, NOS; status post
possible Lyme disease infection; osteoarthritis/Lyme
arthritis; degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine; and
chronic sinusitis (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
5. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).
6. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(b) except she can frequently climb ramps and
stairs but never climb ladders or scaffolds. This person can
frequently balance but can only occasionally stoop, crouch,
kneel and crawl. This individual should never be exposed to
unprotected heights, dangerous machinery, dangerous tools or
hazardous processes[, ] and should be exposed to no more than
moderate noise levels. In addition to normal workday breaks,
this person would be off-task up to five percent of an
eight-hour workday, in non-consecutive minutes.
7. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work
as a consignment store operator. This work does not require
the performance of work-related activities precluded by the
claimant's residual functional capacity (20 CFR
8. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from September 30, 2012, through
the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(f)).