United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), plaintiff Christa Poole seeks
judicial review of a final adverse decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security. The Commissioner denied Ms.
Poole's claim for a period of disability and disability
insurance. After careful review, the Court affirms the
Poole applied for a period of disability and disability
insurance benefits on July 26, 2013. (Doc. 6-4, p. 2). Ms.
Poole alleges that her disability began December 8, 2008.
(Doc. 6-4, p. 2). The Commissioner initially denied Ms.
Poole's claim on October 30, 2013. (Doc. 6-5. pp. 2-8).
Ms. Poole requested a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ). (Doc. 6-5, p. 13). The ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision on April 30, 2015. (Doc. 6-3, pp. 10-22). On July
22, 2016, the Appeals Council declined Ms. Poole's
request for review (Doc. 6-3, p. 2), making the
Commissioner's decision final and a proper candidate for
this Court's judicial review. See 42 U.S.C.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
scope of review in this matter is limited. “When, as in
this case, the ALJ denies benefits and the Appeals Council
denies review, ” the Court “review[s] the
ALJ's ‘factual findings with deference' and
[his] ‘legal conclusions with close
scrutiny.'” Riggs v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 522 Fed.Appx. 509, 510-11 (11th Cir. 2013)
(quoting Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th
Court must determine whether there is substantial evidence in
the record to support the ALJ's factual findings.
“Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla and is
such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Crawford v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir.
2004). In evaluating the administrative record, the Court may
not “decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence,
” or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ.
Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 631 F.3d
1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011) (internal quotations and citation
omitted). If substantial evidence supports the ALJ's
factual findings, then the Court “must affirm even if
the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's
findings.” Costigan v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec.
Admin., 603 Fed.Appx. 783, 786 (11th Cir. 2015) (citing
Crawford, 363 F.3d at 1158).
respect to the ALJ's legal conclusions, the Court must
determine whether the ALJ applied the correct legal
standards. If the Court finds an error in the ALJ's
application of the law, or if the Court finds that the ALJ
failed to provide sufficient reasoning to demonstrate that
the ALJ conducted a proper legal analysis, then the Court
must reverse the ALJ's decision unless the error is
harmless. Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143,
1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991).
SUMMARY OF THE ALJ'S DECISION
determine whether a claimant has proven that she is disabled,
an ALJ follows a five-step sequential evaluation process. The
(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 experience.
Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178. For purposes of
evaluating Ms. Poole's request for a period of disability
and disability insurance benefits, the ALJ noted that Ms.
Poole had sufficient coverage to remain insured through
December 31, 2013, so Ms. Poole had to establish disability
on or before December 31, 2013 to be entitled to a period of
disability and disability insurance benefits. (Doc. 6-3, p.
13); see also Moncrief v. Astrue, 300 Fed.Appx. 879,
880 n.1 (11th Cir. 2008) (“Unlike SSI, which has no
insured status requirement, a claimant must demonstrate
disability on or before the last date on which she was
insured in order to be eligible for DIB.”).
case, the ALJ found that Ms. Poole has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity from December 8, 2008, the
alleged onset date, through December 31, 2013, her date last
insured. (Doc. 6-3, p. 15). The ALJ determined that Ms. Poole
suffers from the following severe impairments: diabetes
mellitus, hypertension, neuropathy, obesity, and major
depression, recurrent, moderate, with anxiety. (Doc. 6-3, p.
15). Based on a review of the medical evidence, the ALJ
concluded that Ms. Poole does not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the
severity of any of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Doc. 6-3, p. 15).
light of Ms. Poole's impairments, the ALJ evaluated Ms.
Poole's residual functional capacity or RFC. The ALJ
determined that Ms. Poole has the RFC to perform:
sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a), with respect
to sitting, standing, walking, lifting and carrying; work
that is simple and routine in nature; is able to maintain
attention and concentration for two hours with customary rest
breaks; and can work with things rather than data or people.
(Doc. 6-3, p. 17).
on this RFC, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Poole is not able to
perform her past relevant work as a certified nurse assistant
and cashier. (Doc. 6-3, p. 20). Relying on testimony from a
vocational expert, the ALJ found that jobs exist in the
national economy that Ms. Poole can perform, including
inspector and sorter, production table worker, and machine
operator and feeder. (Doc. 6-3, pp. 20-21). Accordingly, the
ALJ determined that Ms. Poole has not been under ...