United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Lena Caves (“Caves”) brings this action under 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). Caves 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”). Caves filed her application on September
3, 2013. (Tr. 20). After that, Caves pursued and exhausted
the administrative remedies available before the
Commissioner. Caves filed her Complaint in the Northern
District of Alabama on November 28, 2016. (Doc. 1). Caves
filed her brief in support of her position on July 3, 2017.
(Doc. 12). The Commissioner responded on August 1, 2017.
(Doc. 13). Caves replied on August 18, 2017. (Doc. 14). This
case is now ripe for judicial review under section 205(g) of
the Social Security Act (the “Act”), 42 U.S.C.
Court carefully reviewed the record in this case and
AFFIRMS the ALJ's decision.
amended alleged onset date is September 3, 2013. (Tr. 20).
Caves suffers from “obesity[, ] non-insulin dependent
diabetes mellitus[, ] hypertension[, ] osteoarthritis of the
hips[, ] and vertigo.” (Id. at 22) (emphasis
omitted). On September 3, 2013, Caves filed an application
for Social Security benefits. (Id. at 20). The
Social Security Administration denied that application. On
May 26, 2015, Administrative Law Judge L.K. Cooper, Jr. held
a hearing. (Id. at 32-47). The ALJ issued his
decision on September 24, 2015, which was unfavorable to
Caves. (Id. at 20-27). In that opinion, the ALJ
found that Caves did not meet the disability standard at
Steps Three and Four. (Id. at 24, 26). Caves
requested the Appeals Council review her claim. (Id.
at 1-3). They refused. (Id.).
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
the national economy.
Pope v. Shalala, 998 F.2d 473, 477 (7th Cir. 1993)
(citing to formerly applicable C.F.R. section), overruled
on other grounds by Johnson v. Apfel, 189 F.3d 561,
562-63 (7th Cir. 1999); accord McDaniel v. Bowen,
800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir. 1986). The sequential analysis
goes as follows:
Once the claimant has satisfied steps One and Two, she will
automatically be found disabled if she suffers from a listed
impairment. If the claimant does not have a listed impairment
but cannot perform her work, the burden shifts to the
[Commissioner] to show that the claimant can perform some
Pope, 998 F.2d at 477; accord Foote v.
Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1559 (11th Cir. 1995). The
Commissioner must further show that such work exists in the
national economy in significant numbers. Id.
Finding of the ...