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Rogers v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division

March 8, 2018

AMY BRANNON ROGERS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), plaintiff Amy Brannon Rogers seeks judicial review of a final adverse decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. The Commissioner denied Ms. Rogers's claims for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits. After careful review, the Court affirms the Commissioner's decision.[1]

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Ms. Rogers applied for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits on July 29, 2013. (Doc. 9-4, p. 30). Ms. Rogers alleges that her disability began on November 19, 2011. (Doc. 9-4, p. 30). The Commissioner initially denied Ms. Rogers's claim on October 11, 2013. (Doc. 9-5, pp. 2-7). Ms. Rogers requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Doc. 9-5, p. 8). The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on March 26, 2015. (Doc. 9-3, pp. 9-24). On September 8, 2016, the Appeals Council declined Ms. Rogers's request for review (Doc. 9-3, p. 2), making the Commissioner's decision final and a proper candidate for this Court's judicial review. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The scope of review in this matter is limited. “When, as in this case, the ALJ denies benefits and the Appeals Council denies review, ” the Court “review[s] the ALJ's ‘factual findings with deference' and [his] ‘legal conclusions with close scrutiny.'” Riggs v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 522 Fed.Appx. 509, 510-11 (11th Cir. 2013) (quoting Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th Cir. 2001)).

         The Court must determine whether there is substantial evidence in the record to support the ALJ's factual findings. “Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Crawford v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004). In evaluating the administrative record, the Court may not “decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, ” or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011) (internal quotations and citation omitted). If substantial evidence supports the ALJ's factual findings, then the Court “must affirm even if the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's findings.” Costigan v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., 603 Fed.Appx. 783, 786 (11th Cir. 2015) (citing Crawford, 363 F.3d at 1158).

         With respect to the ALJ's legal conclusions, the Court must determine whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards. If the Court finds an error in the ALJ's application of the law, or if the Court finds that the ALJ failed to provide sufficient reasoning to demonstrate that the ALJ conducted a proper legal analysis, then the Court must reverse the ALJ's decision. Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991).

         III. SUMMARY OF THE ALJ'S DECISION

         To determine whether a claimant has proven that she is disabled, an ALJ follows a five-step sequential evaluation process. The ALJ considers:

(1) whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the impairment meets or equals the severity of the specified impairments in the Listing of Impairments; (4) based on a residual functional capacity (“RFC”) assessment, whether the claimant can perform any of his or her past relevant work despite the impairment; and (5) whether there are significant numbers of jobs in the national economy that the claimant can perform given the claimant's RFC, age, education, and work experience.

Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178.

         In this case, the ALJ found that Ms. Rogers has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 19, 2011, the alleged onset date. (Doc. 9-3, p. 14). The ALJ determined that Ms. Rogers suffers from the following severe impairments: left sciatic joint dysfunction, status post lumbar fusion L4-5 and L5-S1, lumbar degenerative disc disease, and obesity. (Doc. 9-3, p. 14). The ALJ found that Ms. Rogers has the following non-severe impairments: hypertension, hyperlipidemia, mild right carpel tunnel syndrome, depression, and anxiety. (Doc. 9-3, p. 15). Based on a review of the medical evidence, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Rogers does not have an impairment or a combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of any of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Doc. 9-3, p. 17).

         In light of Ms. Rogers's impairments, the ALJ evaluated Ms. Rogers's residual functional capacity or RFC. The ALJ determined that Ms. Rogers has the RFC to perform:

light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except the claimant could lift and carry up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. She could sit, stand and/or walk for up to 6 hours each in an 8-hour workday with normal breaks. She could occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She could occasionally perform work activity requiring balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling.

(Doc. 9-3, p. 18).

         Based on this RFC, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Rogers is not able to perform her past relevant work as a home attendant. (Doc. 9-3, p. 22). Relying on testimony from a vocational expert, the ALJ found that jobs exist in the national economy that Ms. Rogers can perform, including an inspector, sorter, and bander. (Doc. 9-3, p. 23). Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Ms. Rogers has not been under a disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (Doc. 9-3, p. 24).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         Ms. Rogers argues that she is entitled to relief from the ALJ's decision because the ALJ failed to properly consider the opinion of treating physician Dr. Franklin Calame Sammons and because the ALJ failed to consider her (Ms. Rogers's) work history in ...


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