United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
SHERI L. MINOR, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. BORDEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Sheri L. Minor is appearing in this appeal pro se
and seeking judicial review of the denial of her claim for
supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Social
Security Act. Doc. 1. 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
court's Local Rules. Docs. 9 & 10. Because the
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the
“Commissioner”) is supported by substantial
evidence and does not contain reversible error, the decision
will 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) (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.
February 14, 2011, Minor filed a Title II application for a
period of disability and disability insurance benefits as
well as a Title XVI application for supplemental security
income. Doc. 14-2 at 19. In both applications, Minor alleged
a disability due to back and feet problems, bipolar disorder,
post-traumatic stress disorder, asthma, chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease (“COPD”), and panic attacks
with an alleged onset date of January 1, 2009. Doc. 14-2 at
19 & 22. Her claims were denied at the initial
administrative level and on appeal by decision of an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) dated October
24, 2012. The Appeals Council upheld the ALJ's
October 24th decision on February 21, 2013. Doc. 14-2 at 19.
March 22, 2013, Minor filed a second Title II application for
a period of disability and disability insurance benefits and
a Title XVI application for supplemental security income.
Doc. 14-2 at 19. In both applications, Minor claimed a new
disability onset date of September 1, 2012. Doc. 14-2 at 19.
These claims were denied at the initial administrative level
on June 11, 2013. Doc. 14-2 at 19.
requested a hearing before an ALJ, which was held on
September 9, 2014. Doc. 14-2 at 19. The claimant appeared at
the hearing with her attorney and testified. Doc. 14-2 at 19.
A vocational expert appeared at the hearing and testified as
well. Doc. 14-2 at 19.
hearing, Minor amended her disability onset date from
September 1, 2012, to her protected filing date of March 22,
2013. Doc. 14-2 at 19. Because of this change, Minor would
not have been entitled to the claimed period of disability
and disability insurance benefits because she would not have
disability insured status on the date of onset. Doc. 14-2 at
19. Therefore, Minor, through her attorney, voluntarily
withdrew her hearing request as it pertained to her Title II
application for a period of disability and disability
insurance benefits, making the initial administrative denial
of her Title II application the final decision of the
Commissioner. Doc. 14-2 at 19. The ALJ then dismissed her
hearing request as to that claim and addressed only
Minor's remaining claim for supplemental security income
under Title XVI. Doc. 14-2 at 19-20.
decision dated November 12, 2014, the ALJ denied Minor's
supplemental security income claim. Doc. 14-2 at 19-29. In
his decision, the ALJ found that Minor suffered from the
severe impairments of COPD, degenerative disc disease,
anxiety-related disorder of post-traumatic stress disorder,
and bipolar disorder, but that none of those impairments or a
combination of those impairments meets or medically equals
the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§
416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926). The ALJ further concluded
that Minor has the residual functional capacity
perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b),
with abilities, limitations and restrictions to include the
following: no climbing of ladders, ropes and scaffolds;
occasional climbing of ramps and stairs; occasional
balancing, kneeling, crouching, crawling, and stooping; avoid
concentrated exposure to extreme heat and cold; avoid
concentrated exposure to humidity; avoid even moderate
exposure to fumes, odors, chemicals, gases, dusts, and poorly
ventilated areas; avoid hazardous machinery and unprotected
heights; can understand, remember and carry out short and
simple instructions, but is unable to do so with detailed or
complex instructions; can perform simple, routine, repetitive
tasks, but is unable to do so with detailed or complex tasks;
can have no more than occasional, casual contact with the
general public; can accept constructive, non-confrontational
supervisory criticism; can deal with changes in the work
place if they are introduced occasionally, gradually and are
well explained; and may be expected to miss one-to-two days
of work per month due to impairments.
Doc. 14-2 at 25. The ALJ ultimately concluded
that-considering Minor's age, education, work experience,
and RFC-there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in
the national economy that she can perform. Doc. 14-2 at 28.
Consequently, the ALJ concluded that Minor is not disabled
within the meaning of ...