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Sanders v. Berryhill

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

February 1, 2018

TIM OLIN SANDERS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CHARLES S. COODY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Tim Olin Sanders (“Sanders”) protectively filed a Title II application for a period of disability and disability benefits and a Title XVI application for supplemental security income, alleging that he became disabled on December 1, 2012. (R. 55, 214-15, 216-17). His applications were denied at the initial administrative level. The plaintiff then requested and received a hearing before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Michael D. Anderson. Following a hearing held on February 18, 2015, (R. 74-96), the ALJ issued a decision denying the claims on May 29, 2015. (R. 52-68). The Appeals Council denied Sanders' subsequent request for review (R. 6-9). The ALJ's decision consequently became the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”).[2] See Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir. 1986). The case is now before the court for review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405 (g) and 1383(c)(3). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties have consented to entry of final judgment by the United States Magistrate Judge. (Docs. ## 9 & 10). Based on the court's review of the record in this case and the briefs of the parties, the court concludes that the decision of the Commissioner should be affirmed.

         II. Standard of Review

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A) a person is entitled to disability benefits when the person is unable 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 12 months . . .

         To make this determination[3] the Commissioner employs a five-step, sequential evaluation process. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.

(1) Is the claimant presently unemployed?
(2) Is the claimant's impairment severe?
(3) Does the claimant's impairment meet or equal one of the specific impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1?
(4) Is the claimant unable to perform his or former occupation?
(5) Is the claimant unable to perform any other work within the economy?
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.”

McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir. 1986).

         The standard of review of the Commissioner's decision is a limited one. This court must find the Commissioner's decision conclusive if it is supported by substantial evidence. Graham v. Apfel, 129 F.3d 1420, 1422 (11th Cir. 1997); 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance. It is such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). A reviewing court may not look only to those parts of the record which supports the decision of the ALJ, but instead must view the record in its entirety and take account of evidence which detracts from the evidence relied on by the ALJ. Hillsman v. Bowen, 804 F.2d 1179 (11th Cir. 1986).

[The court must] . . . scrutinize the record in its entirety to determine the reasonableness of the [Commissioner's] . . . factual findings . . . No similar presumption of validity attaches to the [Commissioner's] . . . legal conclusions, including determination of the proper standards to be applied in evaluating claims.

Walker v. Bowen, 826 F.2d 996, 999 (11th Cir. 1987).

         III. The Issues

         A. Introduction.

         Sanders was forty-six years old on the date of the administrative hearing and one day shy of being forty-seven years old on the date the ALJ issued his opinion. (R. 77). Sanders has completed the eighth grade. (Id.). His prior work experience includes work as a machine operator processor and a repair shop technician small engine mechanic. (R. ...


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