United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
OWEN BOWDRE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
September 4, 2013, the claimant, Pamela Michelle Ray, applied
for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits
under Title II, alleging that she became disabled on January
1, 2007, because of reflex sympathetic dystrophy, high blood
pressure, poor reading comprehension skills, depression, high
cholesterol, and low thyroid levels. (R. 183-89, 204, 244).
After the Commissioner initially denied benefits to the
claimant, she filed a timely request for a hearing; the
Administrative Law Judge held a hearing on June 4, 2015. (R.
decision dated August 5, 2015, the ALJ found that the
claimant had no disability prior to September 30, 2011, her
date last insured. (R. 21-32). The Appeals Council denied the
claimant's request for review on December 16, 2016. (R
1-6). Consequently, the ALJ's decision became the final
decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration. The claimant has exhausted her administrative
remedies, and this court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42
U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). For the reasons
stated below, this court REVERSES and REMANDS the decision of
the ALJ erred as a matter of law in failing to consider
Listing 12.05 (C) regarding the claimant's Full Scale IQ
score of 61.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
standard for reviewing the Commissioner's decision is
limited. This court must affirm the Commissioner's
decision if she applied the correct legal standard and if
substantial evidence supports her factual conclusions.
See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Graham v.
Apfel, 129 F.3d 1420, 1422 (11th Cir. 1997); Walker
v. Bowen, 826 F.2d 996, 999 (11th Cir. 1987).
… presumption of validity attaches to the [ALJ's]
legal conclusions, including determination of the proper
standards to be applied in evaluating claims.”
Walker, 826 F.2d at 999. This court does not review
the ALJ's factual determinations de novo and
will affirm those factual determinations supported by
substantial evidence. “Substantial evidence” is
“more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales,
402 U.S. 389, 402 (1971).
court must keep in mind that opinions, such as whether a
claimant is disabled, the nature and extent of a
claimant's residual functional capacity, and the
application of vocational factors “are not medical
opinions, . . . but are, instead, opinions on issues reserved
to the Commissioner because they are administrative findings
that are dispositive of a case; i.e., that would direct the
determination or decision of disability.” 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1527(d), 416.927(d). Whether the claimant
meets a Listing and is entitled to Social Security disability
benefits is a question reserved for the ALJ, and the court
“may not decide facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or
substitute [its] judgment for that of the
Commissioner.” Dyer v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d
1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005). Thus, even if the court were to
disagree with the ALJ about the significance of certain
facts, the court has no power to reverse that finding as long
as substantial evidence in the record supports it.
court must “scrutinize the record in its entirety to
determine the reasonableness of the [ALJ]'s factual
findings.” Walker, 826 F.2d at 999. A
reviewing court must not only look to those parts of the
record that support the decision of the ALJ, but also must
view the record in its entirety and take account of evidence
that detracts from the evidence relied on by the ALJ.
Hillsman v. Bowen, 804 F.2d 1179, 1180 (11th Cir.
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 . . . .” 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A). To make this determination the Commissioner
employs a five-step, sequential evaluation process:
(1) Is the person presently unemployed?
(2) Is the person's impairment severe?
(3) Does the person'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 person unable to perform his or her former
(5) Is the person unable to perform any other work within the
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
McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir.
1986); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.
establish eligibility for disability insurance benefits, the
claimant must demonstrate that she was disabled on or before
her date last insured. Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d
1208, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005). Evidence that post-dates a
claimant's date last insured “‘may be
relevant and properly considered if it bears upon the
severity of the claimaint's condition before the
expiration of his or her insured status.'” Dye
v. Colvin, No. 6:15-cv-00237-VEH, 2016 WL 3997245 *6
(N.D. Ala. July 26, 2016) (quoting Ward v. Astrue,
No. 3:00-cv-1137-J-HTS, 2008 WL 1994978, at *4 (M.D. Fla. May
8, 2008)) (emphasis omitted). The ALJ must adequately explain
whether medical records dated after the date last insured
have any bearing on the claimant's condition prior to her
date last insured for the court to conduct a
“meaningful review.” See Fitzgibbon v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 8:15-cv-706-T-JSS, 2017 WL