United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Jasper Division
OWEN BOWDRE, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
April 28, 2014, the claimant, Nina Posey, protectively filed
a Title II application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits and a Title XVI application for
supplemental security income. (R. 184-196). In both
applications, the claimant alleged disability beginning July
24, 2012. (R. 109, 188). These claims were denied initially
on June 10, 2014. (R. 119, 125). The claimant then filed a
written request for hearing on June 19, 2014. (R. 132).
decision dated November 6, 2015, the ALJ found that the
claimant was not disabled as defined by the Social Security
Act and was, therefore, ineligible for social security
benefits. (R. 18-30). On September 28, 2016, the Appeals
Council denied the claimant's request for review. (R.
1-4). Consequently, the ALJ's decision became the final
decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration. (R. 1). The claimant has exhausted her
administrative remedies, and this court has jurisdiction
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). For
the reasons stated below, this court will AFFIRM the decision
of the Commissioner.
claimant presents the following issues for review:
1. whether the ALJ fully and fairly developed the record
concerning the severity of the claimant's alleged carpal
2. whether the ALJ accorded proper weight to the opinion of
the claimant's cardiologist; and
3. whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's
finding that the claimant can perform light work.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
standard for reviewing the Commissioner's decision is
limited. This court must affirm the Commissioner's
decision if the Commissioner applied the correct legal
standards and substantial evidence supports his factual
findings. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Graham v.
Apfel, 129 F.3d 1420, 1422 (11th Cir. 1997); Walker
v. Bowen, 826 F.2d 996, 999 (11th Cir. 1987).
. . . presumption of validity attaches to the
[Commissioner's] legal conclusions, including
determination of the proper standards to be applied in
evaluating claims.” Walker, 826 F.2d at 999.
This court does not review the Commissioner's factual
determinations de novo. The court will affirm those
factual determinations that are supported by substantial
evidence. “Substantial evidence” is “more
than a scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 401 (1971).
court must keep in mind that opinions such as whether a
claimant is disabled, the nature and extent of a
claimant's residual functional capacity, and the
application of vocational factors “are not medical
opinions . . . but are, instead, opinions on issues reserved
to the Commissioner because they are administrative findings
that are dispositive of a case; i.e., that would direct the
determination or decision of disability.” 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1527(d), 416.927(d). Whether the claimant
meets the listing and is qualified for Social Security
disability benefits is a question reserved for the ALJ, and
the court “may not decide facts anew, reweigh the
evidence, or substitute [its] judgment for that of the
Commissioner.” Dyer v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d
1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005). Thus, even if the court were to
disagree with the ALJ about the significance of certain
facts, the court has no power to reverse that finding as long
as substantial evidence in the record supports it.
court must “scrutinize the record in its entirety to
determine the reasonableness of the [Commissioner]'s
factual findings.” Walker, 826 F.2d at 999. A
reviewing court must not only look to those parts of the
record that support the decision of the ALJ, but also must
view the record in its entirety and take account of evidence
that detracts from the evidence relied on by the ALJ.
Hillsman v. Bowen, 804 F.2d 1179, 1180 (11th Cir.
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A), a person is entitled to
disability benefits when the person is unable 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. §
this determination the Commissioner employs a five-step,
sequential evaluation process:
(1) Is the person presently unemployed?
(2) Is the person's impairment severe?
(3) Does the person's impairment meet or equal one of the
specific impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt.
P, App. 1?
(4) Is the person unable to perform his or her former
(5) Is the person unable to perform any other work within the
An affirmative answer to any of the above questions leads
either to the next question, or, on steps three and five, to
a finding of disability. A negative answer to any question,
other than step three, leads to a determination of “not
McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir.
1986); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.
claimant focuses her arguments on the ALJ's determination
of her residual functional capacity. The assessment of the
claimant's residual functional capacity determines the
claimant's ability to do work despite her impairments and
should be “based upon all of the relevant
evidence.” Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436,
1440 (11th Cir. 1997); see also 20 C.F.R. §
404.1545(a). The ALJ makes this determination by considering
the claimant's physical, mental, and other abilities
affected by the impairment(s). 20 C.F.R. §
claimant was 53 years old at the time of the ALJ hearing. (R.
42). The claimant attended school until the 10th grade and
had previously worked as a chicken packer at Marshall Durbin
Corporation from 2006 through 2010. (R. 45, 238-39, 273). The
claimant is a life-long smoker and alleges disability based
on possessing a pacemaker, and suffering from seizures,
carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease (COPD), high cholesterol, Bell's palsy,
and colon issues. (R. 250).
October of 2007, the claimant first sought treatment for a
seizure disorder and fibromyalgia from Dr. Scott Boswell, a
specialist in family medicine. At that time, Dr. Boswell
ruled out fibromyalgia, as well as anemia. But in November of
2007, Dr. Boswell assessed the claimant to have arthritis,
low back pain and an abnormal chest x-ray. In 2008, ...