United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
Scott Coogler United States District Judge
plaintiff, Mickey Lynn Mitchell, appeals from the decision of
the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”) denying his applications for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), a period of
disability, and Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”). Mr. Mitchell 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).
Mitchell was 47 years old at the time of the Administrative
Law Judge's (“ALJ's”) decision, and he
has an eleventh grade education. (Tr. at 65.) His past work
experiences include employment as a carpenter and a pest
exterminator. (Tr. at 65-66, 209.) Mr. Mitchell claims that
he became disabled on May 19, 2013, due to arthritis,
diabetes, neuropathy, high blood pressure, and shoulder pain.
(Tr. at 208.) May 19, 2013, is the day after the date that
the Commissioner issued a final decision determining that Mr.
Mitchell was not disabled on an earlier application.
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).
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),
416.920(e). The 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 impairment or combination of impairments does
not prevent him from performing his past relevant work, the
evaluator will make a finding of not disabled. See
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.
Mitchell was insured through September 30, 2014. (Tr. at 41.)
He further determined that Mr. Mitchell has not engaged in
SGA since the alleged onset of his disability. (Id.)
According to the ALJ, Plaintiff's diabetes with
neuropathy, sleep apnea, hypertension, history of shoulder
injury, and degenerative disc disease are considered
“severe” based on the requirements set forth in
the regulations. (Tr. at 42.) However, he found that these
impairments neither meet nor medically equal any of the
listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
1. (Tr. at 43.) Further, he determined that Mr. Mitchell has
the following RFC: performance of light, unskilled work as
defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b);
he could have frequent interaction with co-workers,
supervisors, and the general public; he cannot do any
climbing of ropes, ladders or scaffolds; he cannot work at
unprotected heights or with hazardous machinery; he cannot do
more than occasional stooping, crouching, or crawling; he
cannot do more than occasional overhead reaching bilaterally;
and he cannot be exposed to dust, fumes, or other respiratory
irritants. (Tr. at 44.)
to the ALJ, Mr. Mitchell is unable to perform any of his past
relevant work, he is a “younger individual age 18-49,
” he has a “limited education, ” and he is
able to communicate in English, as those terms are defined by
the regulations. (Tr. at 51.) The ALJ then enlisted a
Vocational Expert and used Medical-Vocational Rule 202.18 as
a guideline for finding that there are a significant number
of jobs in the national economy that he is capable of
performing, such as general office clerk, assembler, and
packer. (Tr. at 52.) The ALJ concluded his findings by
stating that Plaintiff “has not been under a
disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from May
19, 2013, through the date of this decision.”
Standard of Review
Court's role in reviewing claims brought under the Social
Security Act is a narrow one. 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 Stone v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
544 F. App'x 839, 841 (11th Cir. 2013) (citing
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 evidence, but applies close
scrutiny to the legal conclusions. See Miles v.
Chater, 84 F.3d 1397, 1400 (11th Cir. 1996).
this Court may not decide facts, weigh evidence, or
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner.
Dyer v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir.
2005) (quoting Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232,
1240 n.8 (11th Cir. 2004)). “The substantial evidence
standard permits administrative decision makers to act with
considerable latitude, and ‘the possibility of drawing
two inconsistent conclusions from the evidence does not
prevent an administrative agency's finding from being
supported by substantial evidence.'” Parker v.
Bowen, 793 F.2d 1177, 1181 (11th Cir. 1986) (Gibson, J.,
dissenting) (quoting Consolo v. Fed. Mar.
Comm'n, 383 U.S. 607, 620 (1966)). Indeed, even if
this Court finds that the proof preponderates ...