United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
N. JOHNSON, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Shannon Wells seeks judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) of an adverse, final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner” or “Secretary”),
regarding her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB).
The undersigned has carefully considered the record, and for
the reasons stated below, AFFIRM the
AND STANDARD OF REVIEW
qualify for disability benefits and establish his entitlement
for a period of disability, the 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 of a “physical or mental
impairment” which “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.
determining whether a claimant suffers a disability, the
Commissioner, through an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ),
works through a five-step sequential evaluation process.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. The burden rests upon
the claimant on the first four steps of this five-step
process; the Commissioner sustains the burden at step five,
if the evaluation proceeds that far. Jones v. Apfel,
190 F.3d 1224, 1228 (11thCir. 1999).
first step, the claimant cannot be currently engaged in
substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b).
Second, the claimant must prove the impairment is
“severe” in that it “significantly limits
[the] physical or mental ability to do basic work activities
. . . .” Id. at § 404.1520(c).
three, the evaluator must conclude the claimant is disabled
if the impairments meet or are medically equivalent to one of
the impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App.
1, §§ 1.00-114.02. Id. at §
404.1520(d). If a claimant's impairment meets the
applicable criteria at this step, that claimant's
impairments would prevent any person from performing
substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 404.1525, 416.920(a)(4)(iii). That is, a
claimant who satisfies steps one and two qualifies
automatically for disability benefits if he suffers a listed
impairment. See Jones, 190 F.3d at 1228 (“If,
at the third step, [the claimant] proves that [an] impairment
or combination of impairments meets or equals a listed
impairment, [the] is automatically found disabled regardless
of age, education, or work experience.”) (citing 20
C.F.R. § 416.920).
claimant's impairment or combination of impairments does
not meet or medically equal a listed impairment, the
evaluation proceeds to the fourth step where the claimant
demonstrates an incapacity to meet the physical and mental
demands of past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e).
At this step, the evaluator must determine whether the
plaintiff has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform the requirements of his past
relevant work. See Id. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant's
impairment or combination of impairments does not prevent
performance of past relevant work, the evaluator will
determine the claimant is not disabled. See id.
claimant is successful at the preceding step, the fifth step
shifts the burden to the Commissioner to prove, considering
claimant's RFC, age, education and past work experience,
whether the claimant is capable of performing other work. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(f)(1). If the plaintiff can
perform other work, the evaluator will not find the claimant
disabled. See Id. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v),
416.920(a)(4)(v); see also 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(g), 416.920(g). If the plaintiff cannot perform
other work, the evaluator will find the claimaint disabled.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), 404.1520(g),
court reviews the ALJ's “‛decision with
deference to the factual findings and close scrutiny of the
legal conclusions.'” Parks ex rel. D.P. v.
Comm'r, Social Sec. Admin., 783 F.3d 847, 850
(11th Cir. 2015) (quoting Cornelius v.
Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145 (11thCir.
1991)). The court must determine whether substantial evidence
supports the Commissioner's decision and whether the
Commissioner applied the proper legal standards. Winschel
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178
(11th Cir. 2011). Although the 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)
(citations omitted), the court “may not decide the
facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute [its]
judgment” for that of the ALJ. Winschel, 631
F.3d at 1178 (citations and internal quotation marks
omitted). “Substantial evidence is more than a
scintilla and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable
person would accept as adequate to support a
conclusion” Id. (citations omitted).
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
hearing on January 2, 2015, the ALJ issued his decision on
April 6, 2015. In his decision, the ALJ first determined that
Ms. Wells met the Social Security Act's insured status
requirements through December 31, 2018. The ALJ further found
Wells has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since
May 20, 2011, the alleged onset date. At step two, the ALJ
found the following severe impairments: depressive disorder;
anxiety disorder; anorexia nervosa; pain; disorder associated
with psychological factors and general medical condition;
pectus excavatum; chronic back pain; chronic chest wall pain;
and restrictive lung disease due to pectus excavatum. (Tr.
concluded at step three Ms. Wells's combination of severe
impairments do not meet or medically equal a listed
impairment. (Tr. 41). At step four, the ALJ found Wells
cannot perform her past relevant work as a stock manager and
front desk worker. He ruled Wells exhibits the RFC to perform
sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1567(a), with certain limitations. (Tr. 43-44). At
step five, the ALJ determined Wells's age, education,
work experience, and RFC allow her to perform jobs that exist
in significant numbers in the local and national economy,
such as order clerk, charge account clerk, and surveillance
system monitor. (Tr. 50).
August 5, 2016, the Appeals Council denied review, which
deems the ALJ's decision as the Commissioner's final
decision. (Tr. 1). Ms. Wells filed her complaint with the