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Langley v. Berryhill

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

March 16, 2018

NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


          John E. Ott, Chief United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Glenn Kevin Langley brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking review of the final decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying his application supplemental security income (“SSI”). (Doc. 1).[1] The case has been assigned to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to this court's general order of reference. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of this court for disposition of the matter. (See Doc. 8). See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), Fed.R.Civ.P. 73(a). Upon review of the record and the relevant law, the undersigned finds that the Commissioner's decision is due to be affirmed.


         Plaintiff protectively filed his current SSI application alleging he became disabled on April 22, 2014. (R. 44, 164). It was initially denied. An administrative law judge (“ALJ”) held a video hearing on December 8, 2015 (Id.) and issued an unfavorable decision on May 11, 2016 (R. 44-53). Plaintiff submitted his appeal to the Appeals Council. Upon consideration, the Appeals Council found no reason to review the ALJ's decision. (R. 57). Plaintiff's request for review was denied on October 19, 2016. (Id.)

         II. FACTS

         Plaintiff was 47 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. He has a seventh grade education and intermittently has worked in the past as a buffer installation person for a marble company and as a self-employed house painter. (R. 7-9). Plaintiff alleges onset of disability due to back and neck pain and depression. (R. 184).

         Following a hearing, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following medically determinable impairments: cervical degenerative joint disease, peripheral neuropathy, sciatica, hypertension, and major depressive disorder. (R. 46). She also found Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1. (R. 46). She further found Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b) and that he could (1) occasionally operate hand controls and reach overhead bilaterally; (2) occasionally climb ladders or scaffolds and frequently stoop; (3) have no exposure to unprotected heights or hazardous, moving mechanical parts; (4) perform simple tasks with occasional changes to routine; and (5) have frequent contact with supervisors, coworkers, and the public. (R. 48-49). Based on the RFC finding and testimony from a vocational expert (“VE”), the ALJ concluded Plaintiff had no relevant past work history. (R. 52). However, based on his age, limited education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ found that jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform, such as an assembler, wire worker, and hand packer. (Id.) Accordingly, the ALJ determined Plaintiff was not under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since April 22, 2014, through the date of her decision. (R. 53).


         The court's review of the Commissioner's decision is narrowly circumscribed. The function of the court is to determine whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence and whether proper legal standards were applied. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 1422 (1971); Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1221 (11th Cir. 2002). 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). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Id. It is “more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance.” Id.

         The court must uphold factual findings that are supported by substantial evidence. However, it reviews the ALJ's legal conclusions 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, it must reverse the ALJ's decision. See Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991).


         To qualify for SSI under the Social Security Act, a claimant must show the inability to engage in “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 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). A physical or mental impairment is “an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(D).

         Determination of disability under the Social Security Act requires a five step analysis. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4). Specifically, the Commissioner must determine in sequence:

whether the claimant: (1) is unable to engage in substantial gainful activity; (2) has a severe medically determinable physical or mental impairment; (3) has such an impairment that meets or equals a Listing and meets the duration requirements; (4) can perform his past relevant work, in light of his residual functional capacity; and (5) can make an adjustment to ...

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