United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
THOMAS F. UNDERWOOD, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
Scott Coogler United States District Judge.
Thomas F. Underwood appeals from the decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”) denying his applications for a
period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”). Mr. Underwood timely pursued and exhausted
his administrative remedies and the decision of the
Commissioner is ripe for review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3).
Underwood was fifty-three years of age age at the time of the
Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ's”)
decision. Mr. Underwood has a high school education, has
completed one year of college, and has a commercial real
estate license. (Tr. at 30, 138.) His past employment
includes work as an engineering technician and a
builder/commercial contractor. (Tr. at 52, 135.) He also
listed being a commercial realtor from December 2004 until
December 2009 as past work, stating that he worked 4-5 days
per week for 6-8 hours per day. (Tr. at 151, 154.) Mr.
Underwood claims that he became disabled on January 15, 2005,
due to diabetes, neuropathy, treatment for non-recurring
melanoma, depression, and anxiety. (Tr. at 476.) The last
date that Plaintiff was insured for purposes of disability
insurance was December 31, 2009.
Social Security Administration has established a five-step
sequential evaluation process for determining whether an
individual is disabled and thus eligible for DIB or SSI.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920;
see also Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th
Cir. 2001). The evaluator will follow the steps in order
until making a finding of either disabled or not disabled; if
no finding is made, the analysis will proceed to the next
step. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4),
416.920(a)(4). The first step requires the evaluator to
determine whether the plaintiff is engaged in substantial
gainful activity (“SGA”). See Id.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). If the
plaintiff is not engaged in SGA, the evaluator moves on to
the next step.
second step requires the evaluator to consider the combined
severity of the plaintiff's medically determinable
physical and mental impairments. See Id.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). An
individual impairment or combination of impairments that is
not classified as “severe” and does not satisfy
the durational requirements set forth in 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1509 and 416.909 will result in a finding of
not disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). The decision depends
on the medical evidence contained in the record. See Hart
v. Finch, 440 F.2d 1340, 1341 (5th Cir. 1971)
(concluding that “substantial medical evidence in the
record” adequately supported the finding that plaintiff
was not disabled).
the third step requires the evaluator to consider whether the
plaintiff's impairment or combination of impairments
meets, or is medically equal to, the criteria of an
impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
1. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii),
416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the criteria of a listed impairment
and the durational requirements set forth in 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1509 and 416.909 are satisfied, the
evaluator will make a finding of disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the
plaintiff's impairment, or combination of impairments,
does not meet or medically equal a listed impairment, the
evaluator must determine the plaintiff's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) before proceeding to
the fourth step. See Id. §§ 404.1520(e),
fourth step requires the evaluator to determine whether the
plaintiff has the RFC to perform the requirements of his past
relevant work. See Id. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If the plaintiff's
impairments, or combination thereof, does not prevent him
from performing his past relevant work, the evaluator will
make a finding of not disabled. See id.
fifth and final step requires the evaluator to consider the
plaintiff's RFC, age, education, and work experience in
order to determine whether the plaintiff can make an
adjustment to other work. See Id. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v). If the plaintiff can
perform other work, the evaluator will find him not disabled.
Id.; see also 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(g), 416.920(g). If the plaintiff cannot perform
other work, the evaluator will find him disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), 404.1520(g),
the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found that Mr.
Underwood last met the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act on December 31, 2009. (Tr. at 478.) She
further determined that Mr. Underwood did not engage in SGA
from the alleged onset date of his disability to his date
last insured. (Id.) According to the ALJ, through
the date last insured, Plaintiff's diabetes mellitus and
history of removal of malignant melanomas in March and April
2005 with no evidence of recurrence were “severe”
impairments based on the requirements set forth in the
regulations. (Id.) However, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff did not have any impairments (or combination
thereof) that either met or medically equaled the severity of
any of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, Appendix 1. (Tr. at 478-79.)
determined that, through the date last insured, Mr. Underwood
had the RFC to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR §
404.1567(b) with a sit/stand option, along with the following
additional limitations: he could stand for 30 minutes at one
time for a total of two hours during an eight hour workday;
he could walk for 30 minutes at one time for a total of one
hour during an eight hour workday; he could sit for 30
minutes at one time for a total of five hours during an eight
hour workday; he could lift 30 pounds occasionally and 20
pounds frequently; he could carry ten pounds occasionally and
five pounds frequently; he was restricted from climbing,
balancing and crawling; he could perform activities that
require stooping, kneeling, crouching, and pushing and
pulling with the right arm and left leg; he could not work in
extreme cold or heat; he could not work in high exposed
places or be exposed to fumes, noxious odors, dusts, mists,
gases, or poor ventilation; and occasionally, he could work
around wetness/humidity and in proximity to moving mechanical
parts. (Tr. at 479.)
the testimony of a Vocational Expert, the ALJ determined that
Mr. Underwood was able to perform his past relevant work as
an engineering technician through the date last inured. (Tr.
at 487.) Thus, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Underwood
“was not under a disability, as defined in the Social
Security Act, at any time from . . . the alleged onset date,
through . . . the date last inured.” (Tr. at 488.)
Standard of Review
Court has a narrow role in reviewing claims brought under the
Social Security Act. The scope of its review is limited to
determining (1) whether there is substantial evidence in the
record as a whole to support the findings of the
Commissioner, and (2) whether the correct legal standards
were applied. See Crawford v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004). This Court
gives deference to the factual findings of the Commissioner,
provided those findings are supported by substantial