United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM E. CASSADY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Security Claimant/Plaintiff Pamela Carniece Todd brought this
action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3)
seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Defendant
Commissioner of Social Security (the
“Commissioner”) denying her applications for a
period of disability (“PoD”) and disability
insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401, et seq.,
and supplemental security income (“SSI”) under
Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381,
et seq. The parties have consented to the exercise
of jurisdiction by the Magistrate Judge, pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(c), for all proceedings in this Court.
(Doc. 16 (“In accordance with the provisions of 28
U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, the parties in this
case consent to have a United States Magistrate Judge conduct
any and all proceedings in this case, including the trial,
order the entry of a final judgment, and conduct all
consideration of the briefs of the parties, (Docs. 13 &
14), the administrative record, (Docs. 11), (hereinafter
cited as “(R. [page number(s) in lower-right corner of
transcript])”), and the arguments presented during the
hearing held on February 22, 2017, it is determined that the
Commissioner's decision is due to be
REVERSED and REMANDED for
further proceedings consistent with this
was born on September 11, 1975, (R. 211 [SSA Ex. B1E]). Todd
completed four (4) or more years of college. (R. 225 [SSA Ex.
B3E]). Todd was employed as a clerk and a nutritionist. (R.
215 [SSA Ex. B2E]).
filed applications for PoD and DIB with the Social Security
Administration (the “SSA”),  on August 8,
2013. (R. 20). Todd, also, filed an application for SSI on
August 8, 2013. (R. 20). In Todd's applications, she
alleged disability beginning on July 19, 2013, and, later,
amended her alleged onset date to April 1,
2012. (R. 20). After Todd's claim was
denied, she requested a hearing, which was held via
videoconference before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) for the SSA on September 9, 2014. (R.
20). On February 17, 2015, the ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision on Todd's claims, finding her “not
disabled” under sections 216(i), 223(d), and
1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act. (R. 17-35).
requested review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals
Council for the SSA's Office of Disability Adjudication
and Review. (R. 20). The Appeals Council denied Todd's
request for review on June 2, 2016, which made the ALJ's
the final decision of the Commissioner. (R. 1-7). On June 29,
2016, Todd filed this action pursuant to §
405(g) and § 1383(c)(3) to review the
final decision of the Commissioner. (Doc. 1, at 1-2).
Standard of Review
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)
(citations and internal quotations omitted). The Court
“may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence,
or substitute [its] judgment for that of the
[Commissioner].” Id. (citations omitted).
“Even if the evidence preponderates against the
Commissioner's findings, [the Court] must affirm if the
decision reached is supported by substantial evidence.”
Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir.
1990) (citing Sewell v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 1065, 1067
(11th Cir. 1986); MacGregor v. Bowen, 786 F.2d 1050,
1053 (11th Cir. 1986); and Bloodsworth v. Heckler,
703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983)). “Yet, within
this narrowly circumscribed role, [the Court does] not
‘act as automatons.'” Bloodsworth,
703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983) (citing Ware v.
Schweiker, 651 F.2d 408, 411 (5th Cir. 1981), cert.
denied, 455405(g). U.S. 912, 102 S.Ct. 1263, 71 L.Ed.2d
452 (1982)). The Court “must scrutinize the record as a
whole, [Ware, 651 F.2d at 411]; Lewis v.
Weinberger, 515 F.2d 584, 586-87 (5th Cir. 1975), to
determine if the decision reached is reasonable, Todd v.
Harris, 602 F.2d 1233, 1236 (5th Cir. 1979), and
supported by substantial evidence, Scharlow v.
Schweiker, 655 F.2d 645, 648 (5th Cir. 1981).”
Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1239.
contrast to the deferential review accorded to the
[Commissioner's] findings of fact, the
[Commissioner's] conclusions of law, including applicable
review standards are not presumed valid.”
Martin, 894 F.2d at 1529 (citing MacGregor,
786 F.2d at 1053; Smith v. Heckler, 707 F.2d 1284,
1285 (11th Cir. 1983), Wiggins v. Schweiker, 679
F.2d 1387, 1389 (11th Cir. 1982); Smith v.
Schweiker, 646 F.2d 1075, 1076 (5th Cir. Unit A June
1981). “The [Commissioner's] failure to apply the
correct legal standard or to provide the reviewing court with
sufficient basis for a determination that proper legal
principles have been followed mandates reversal.”
Martin, 894 F.2d at 1529 (citing Gibson v.
Heckler, 779 F.2d 619, 622 (11th Cir. 1986); Bowel
v. Heckler, 748 F.2d 629, 635-36 (11th Cir. 1984);
Smith, 707 F.2d at 1285; Wiggins, 679 F.2d
at 1389; Ambers v. Heckler, 736 F.2d 1467, 1470
(11th Cir. 1984)).
The Social Security Regulations outline a five-step,
sequential evaluation process used to determine whether a
claimant is disabled: (1) whether the claimant is currently
engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) whether the
claimant has a severe impairment or combination of
impairments; (3) whether the impairment meets or equals the
severity of the specified impairments in the Listing of
Impairments; (4) based on a residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) assessment, whether the claimant can
perform any of his or her past relevant work despite the
impairment; and (5) whether there are significant numbers of
jobs in the national economy that the claimant can perform
given the claimant's RFC, age, education, and work
Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178 (citing 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v), 416.920(a)(4)(i)-(v);
Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, at 1237-39
(11th Cir. 2004)).
Claims on Judicial Review
“[T]he ALJ erred by failing to fulfill his duty to
develop the record when he chose not to re-order a
rheumatologic evaluation.” (Doc. 13, at 3).
“[T]he ALJ's RFC lacks the support of substantial
evidence as it fails to include any non-exertional
limitations imposed by her pain.” (Doc. 16, at 3).