United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
K. KALLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Nicole Smith brings this action pursuant to Section 405(g) of
the Social Security Act (“the Act”), 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), seeking review of the final adverse decision
of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”). The court finds that the Administrative
Law Judge's (“ALJ”) and the Appeals
Council's decisions-which have become the decision of the
Commissioner-are supported by substantial evidence.
Therefore, the court affirms the decision denying benefits.
filed an application for a period of disability and
supplemental security income. R. 28. After the SSA denied her
application, Smith requested a hearing before an ALJ, who
subsequently denied Smith's claim. R. 25-44. This became
the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals
Council refused to grant review. R. 1-4. Smith was 17 years
old on the date of her application and 18 years old on the
date of the Commissioner's final decision. R. 32, 42, 44,
180. Smith filed this action pursuant to § 405(g) of the
Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Doc. 1.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
only issues before this court are whether the record contains
substantial evidence to sustain the ALJ's decision,
see 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Walden v.
Schweiker, 672 F.2d 835, 838 (11th Cir. 1982), and
whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards, see
Lamb v. Bowen, 847 F.2d 698, 701 (11th Cir. 1988);
Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir.
1986). Title 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)
mandate that the Commissioner's “factual findings
are conclusive if supported by ‘substantial
evidence.'” Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d
1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990). The district court may not
reconsider the facts, reevaluate the evidence, or substitute
its judgment for that of the Commissioner; instead, it must
review the final decision as a whole and determine if the
decision is “reasonable and supported by substantial
evidence.” See id. (citing Bloodsworth v.
Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983)).
evidence falls somewhere between a scintilla and a
preponderance of evidence; “[i]t is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Martin, 849 F.2d at
1529 (quoting Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1239) (other
citations omitted). If supported by substantial evidence, the
court must affirm the Commissioner's factual findings
even if the preponderance of the evidence is against the
Commissioner's findings. See Martin, 894 F.2d at
1529. While the court acknowledges that judicial review of
the ALJ's findings is limited in scope, it notes that the
review “does not yield automatic affirmance.”
Lamb, 847 F.2d at 701.
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 twelve months.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(A); 42 U.S.C. § 416(i)(I)(A). 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).
applicants who have attained age 18, determination of
disability under the Act requires a five step analysis.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)-(f); 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920. Specifically, the Commissioner must determine
(1) whether the claimant is currently unemployed;
(2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment;
(3) whether the impairment meets or equals one listed by the
(4) whether the claimant is unable to perform his or her past
(5) whether the claimant is unable to perform any work in the
McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir.
1986). “An affirmative answer to any of the above
questions leads either to the next question, or, on steps
three and five, to a finding of disability. A negative answer
to any question, other than step three, leads to a
determination of ‘not disabled.'”
Id. at 1030 (citing 20 C.F.R.§ 416.920(a)-(f)).
“Once a finding is made that a claimant cannot return
to prior work the burden shifts to the Secretary to show