United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
E. OTT, CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Bonnie Jean Samples brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), seeking review of the final decision of the
Acting Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying her application for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”). (Doc.
The case has been assigned to the undersigned United States
Magistrate Judge pursuant to this court's general order
of reference. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction
of this court for disposition of the matter. (See
Doc. 16). See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), Fed.R.Civ.P.
73(a). Upon review of the record and the relevant law, the
undersigned finds that the Commissioner's decision is due
to be affirmed.
filed her current DIB application in July 2013, alleging she
became disabled beginning October 1, 2010. It was initially
denied. An administrative law judge (“ALJ”) held
a hearing on January 6, 2015 (R. 12) and issued an
unfavorable decision on March 20, 2015 (R. 12-20). The
Appeals Council (“AC”) denied Plaintiff's
request for review. (R. 1).
was 47 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. (R.
9, 127). She has a twelfth grade education and has worked as
a phlebotomist, medical assistant, and daycare worker. (R.
57-57, 166, 168). Plaintiff alleged onset of disability on
October 1, 2010, due to Chron's disease, kidney problems,
and a colostomy. (R. 127, 167).
a hearing, applying the five-step sequential evaluation
process, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following
medically determinable impairments: irritable bowel syndrome
and obesity. (R. 14). He determined that her hernia, for
which she received no recent treatment, was not severe.
(Id.) He also found Plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1.
(Id.) He further found Plaintiff retained the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a
reduced range of light work, with various postural
limitations and no exposure to hazards. (R. 15). The ALJ then
found, based on testimony from a vocational expert
(“VE”), that Plaintiff could perform her past
relevant work and other work, including work as an assembler,
photocopy operator, and housekeeper, that existed in
significant numbers in the national economy. (R. 19-20).
Accordingly, the ALJ found Plaintiff was not disabled. (R.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
narrowly circumscribed. The function of the court is to
determine whether the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence and whether proper legal
standards were applied. Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 390, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 1422 (1971); Mitchell v.
Comm'r Soc. Sec., 771 F.3d 780, 782 (11th Cir. 2015;
Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1221 (11th Cir.
2002). The 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).
Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. It is “more than a
scintilla, but less than a preponderance.” Id.
court must uphold factual findings that are supported by
substantial evidence. However, it reviews the ALJ's legal
conclusions 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, it must reverse the ALJ's decision.
See Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46
(11th Cir. 1991). The court must affirm the ALJ's
decision if substantial evidence supports it, even if other
evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's
findings. See Crawford v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004) (quoting Martin v.
Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir.1990)).
STATUTORY AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
qualify for 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 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). A
physical or mental impairment is “an impairment that
results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological
abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable
clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(3).
of disability under the Social Security Act requires a five
step analysis. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4).
Specifically, the Commissioner must determine in sequence:
whether the claimant: (1) is unable to engage in substantial
gainful activity; (2) has a severe medically determinable
physical or mental impairment; (3) has such an impairment
that meets or equals a Listing and meets the duration
requirements; (4) can perform his past relevant work, in
light of his residual functional capacity; and (5) can make
an adjustment to ...