United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
CANTRECE L. HULL, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Social Security Commissioner, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KATHERINE P. NELSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) Plaintiff Cantrece Hull
(“Hull” or “Plaintiff) seeks judicial
review of an adverse social security ruling denying
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income. (Docs. 1, 11). With the consent of the parties, the
Court has designated the undersigned Magistrate Judge to
conduct all proceedings and order the entry of judgment in
this civil action, in accordance with 28 U.S.C. §
636(c), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73, and S.D. Ala.
GenLR 73. (See Docs. 15, 16). The parties requested that oral
argument be waived, and their request was granted. (Docs.
18-19). After considering the administrative record and the
memoranda of the parties, the Court finds that the decision
of the Commissioner due to be AFFIRMED.
22, 2014, Plaintiff protectively applied for disability
insurance benefits and supplemental security income. (R. 20).
Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of September 1,
2011. (Id.). On July 24, 2014, the application was
denied, and Plaintiff requested a hearing. (Id.). On
November 4, 2015, Plaintiff attended a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) and the ALJ
rendered an unfavorable decision on March 25, 2016. (R.
time of the administrative hearing, Plaintiff was thirty nine
years old and had completed one year of a four year college
program. (Doc. 11 at 10). She had previous work history as a
gate guard and in used car sales. (Id.). Plaintiff
alleges she is disabled due to diabetes mellitus,
hypertension, osteoarthritis of the left knee, major
depressive disorder, and panic disorder. (Id.).
March 26, 2016, the ALJ entered a decision unfavorable to
Plaintiff and on March 9, 2017, the Appeals counsel denied
Plaintiff's request for review. (R. 1-77).
presented the following claims on appeal:
1. The Administrative Law Judge committed reversible error in
violation of Social Security Regulations 20 C.F.R.
§416.945, 20 C.F.R. §404.1545, and Social Security
Ruling 96-8p in that the Administrative Law Judge's
residual functional capacity determination was not supported
by substantial evidence.
2. Given the Administrative Law Judge's finding that the
Plaintiff is limited to “simple routine tasks of
unskilled work involving short, simple instructions and
simple work decisions with few changes in work
setting”; and “can interact with co-workers and
supervisors on a basic level and interact with the public
occasionally on a basic level, ” the VE's testimony
that the Plaintiff can perform jobs as an election clerk (DOT
#205.367-030) or call out operator (DOT #237.367-014) or tube
operator (DOT #239.687-014), conflicts with the DOT because,
according to the DOT, an individual who “is limited to
simple, unskilled tasks” could not perform any of these
(Doc. 11 at 1-2). Defendant has responded to-and denies-these
claims. (Doc. 12, generally).
Social Security appeals, [the Court] must determine whether
the Commissioner's decision is ‘ “supported
by substantial evidence and based on proper legal standards.
Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla and is such
relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” ‘ “
Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176,
1178 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Crawford v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004) (per
curiam) (internal citation omitted) (quoting Lewis v.
Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1439 (11th Cir. 1997))).
However, the Court “ ‘may not decide the facts
anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute our judgment for
that of the [Commissioner].' “ Id.
(quoting Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1240
n.8 (11th Cir. 2004) (alteration in original) (quoting
Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th
Cir. 1983))). “‘Even if the evidence
preponderates against the [Commissioner]'s factual
findings, [the Court] must affirm if the decision reached is
supported by substantial evidence.' “ Ingram v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 496 F.3d 1253, 1260
(11th Cir. 2007) (quoting Martin v. Sullivan, 894
F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990)).
within this narrowly circumscribed role, [courts] do not act
as automatons. [The Court] must scrutinize the record as a
whole to determine if the decision reached is reasonable and
supported by substantial evidence[.]”
Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1239 (citations and
quotation omitted). See also Owens v. Heckler, 748
F.2d 1511, 1516 (11th Cir. 1984) (per curiam) (“We are
neither to conduct a de novo proceeding, nor to rubber stamp
the administrative decisions that come before us. Rather, our
function is to ensure that the decision was based on a
reasonable and consistently applied standard, and was
carefully considered in light of all the relevant
facts.”). “In determining whether substantial
evidence exists, [a court] must…tak[e] into account
evidence favorable as well as unfavorable to the
[Commissioner's] decision.” Chester v.
Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir. 1986).
the “substantial evidence” “standard of
review applies only to findings of fact. No similar
presumption of validity attaches to the [Commissioner]'s
conclusions of law, including determination of the proper
standards to be applied in reviewing claims.”
MacGregor v. Bowen, 786 F.2d 1050, 1053 (11th Cir.
1986) (quotation omitted). Accord, e.g., Wiggins
v. Schweiker, 679 F.2d 1387, 1389 (11th Cir. 1982)
(“Our standard of review for appeals from the
administrative denials of Social Security benefits dictates
that ‘(t)he findings of the Secretary as to any fact,
if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive
....' 42 U.S.C.A. s 405(g) … As is plain from the
statutory language, this deferential standard of review is
applicable only to findings of fact made by the Secretary,
and it is well established that no similar presumption of
validity attaches to the Secretary's conclusions of law,
including determination of the proper standards to be applied
in reviewing claims.” (some quotation marks omitted)).
This Court “conduct[s] ‘an exacting
examination' of these factors.” Miles v.
Chater, 84 F.3d 1397, 1400 (11th Cir. 1996) (per curiam)
(quoting Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529
(11th Cir. 1990)). “‘The [Commissioner]'s
failure to apply the correct law or to provide the reviewing
court with sufficient reasoning for determining that the
proper legal analysis has been conducted mandates
reversal.'” Ingram, 496 F.3d at 1260
(quoting Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143,
1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991)). Accord Keeton v. Dep't of
Health & Human Servs., 21 F.3d 1064, 1066 (11th Cir.
courts “review the Commissioner's factual findings
with deference and the Commissioner's legal conclusions
with close scrutiny.” Doughty v. Apfel, 245
F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th Cir. 2001). See also Moore v.
Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005) (per
curiam) (“In Social Security appeals, we review de
novo the legal principles upon which the
Commissioner's decision is based. Chester v.
Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir. 1986). However, we
review the resulting decision only to determine whether it is
supported by substantial evidence. Crawford v. Comm'r
of Soc. Sec, 363 F.3d 1155, 1158-59 (11th Cir.
Eligibility for DIB and SSI requires that the claimant be
disabled. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(a)(1)(E),
1382(a)(1)-(2). A claimant is disabled if she is unable
“to engage in any substantial gainful activity by
reason of a medically determinable physical or mental
impairment ... 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), 1382c(a)(3)(A).
v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., 597 F. App'x. 604,
609 (11th Cir. 2015) ...