United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Jasper Division
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Kandy Woodruff (“Woodruff”) brings this action
under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Woodruff seeks a review of a
final adverse decision of the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (“Commissioner”), who
denied her application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) and supplemental security income
(“SSI”). Woodruff filed her application on June
25, 2012. After that, Woodruff exhausted the administrative
remedies available before the Commissioner. This case is now
ripe for judicial review under section 205(g) of the Social
Security Act (the “Act”), 42 U.S.C. §
reviewing the entire record, this Court
REVERSES and REMANDS the
was 33 years old at the time of her hearing with the ALJ.
(Tr. 14-16). Her education is limited, but she can read and
write in English. (Id. at 38-39, 56, 203). Most of
her past work is in retail and fast food. (Id. 214).
The vocational expert analyzed Woodruff's past work
experience as a cashier, fast food worker, and managerial
fast food worker. (Id. at 37-38). Woodruff claims
disability based on rheumatoid arthritis. (Id. at
alleged onset date is August 2, 2009. (Id. at 50).
On June 25, 2012, Woodruff filed an application for DIB and
SSI. (Id.). The Social Security Administration
denied that application on September 7, 2012. (Id.).
On April 21, 2014, Administrative Law Judge Cynthia W. Brown
held a video hearing. (Id.). The ALJ issued her
decision on June 12, 2014, which was unfavorable to Woodruff.
(Id. at 50-58). The ALJ determined that Woodruff
suffers from “chondromalicia; chronic pain syndrome;
morbid obesity; and sciatica.” (Id. at 53)
(emphasis omitted). In her opinion, the ALJ found that
Woodruffs's impairments did not meet the severity of the
ones included in the Code of Federal Regulations.
(Id.). Woodruff requested the Appeals Council review
her claim. (Id. at 1-3). They refused.
filed her Complaint in the Northern District of Alabama on
April 13, 2016. (Doc. 1). Woodruff filed her brief in support
of her Complaint on June 26, 2017. (Doc. 11). The
Commissioner responded on July 21, 2017. (Doc. 12).
court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
narrowly circumscribed. The function of this court is to
determine whether the decision of the Commissioner is
supported by substantial evidence and whether proper legal
standards were applied. Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 390 (1971); Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d
1219, 1221 (11th Cir. 2002). This court must
“scrutinize the record as a whole to determine if the
decision reached is reasonable and supported by substantial
evidence.” Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d
1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983). This court will determine that
the ALJ's opinion is supported by substantial evidence if
it finds “such relevant evidence as a reasonable person
would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Id. Substantial evidence is “more than a
scintilla, but less than a preponderance.” Id.
Factual findings that are supported by substantial evidence
must be upheld by the court.
ALJ's legal conclusions, however, are reviewed de
novo, because no presumption of validity attaches to the
ALJ's determination of the proper legal standards to be
applied. Davis v. Shalala, 985 F.2d 528, 531 (11th
Cir. 1993). If the court finds an error in the ALJ's
application of the law, or if the ALJ fails to provide the
court with sufficient reasoning for determining that the
proper legal analysis has been conducted, the ALJ's
decision must be reversed. Cornelius v. Sullivan,
936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991).
Statutory and Regulatory Framework
qualify for disability benefits and establish his or her
entitlement for a period of disability, a claimant must be
disabled as defined by the Social Security Act and the
Regulations promulgated thereunder. The Regulations define
“disabled” as “the inability to do 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 (12) months.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a). To
establish an entitlement to disability benefits, a claimant
must provide evidence about a “physical or mental
impairment” that “must result from anatomical,
physiological, or psychological abnormalities which can be
shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory
diagnostic techniques.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1508.
Regulations provide a five-step process for determining
whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(i-v). The Commissioner must determine in
(1) whether the claimant is currently employed;
(2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment;
(3) whether the claimant's impairment meets or equals an
impairment listed by the [Commissioner];
(4) whether the claimant can perform his or her past work;
(5) whether the claimant is capable of performing any work in