United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
G. CORNELIUS U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Katherine Ashlynne Wise appeals from the decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
("Commissioner") denying her application for
Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). (Doc. 1).
Plaintiff timely pursued and exhausted her administrative
remedies, and the decision of the Commissioner is ripe for
review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3).
For the reasons stated below, the Commissioner's decision
is due to be affirmed.
FACTS, FRAMEWORK, AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
was seventeen years old at the time she filed her SSI
application; she was twenty at the time of the Administrative
Law Judge's ("ALJ's") decision.
(See R. 52-53). Plaintiff has a high school
education and speaks English; she has no work experience. (R.
52). A previous application for SSI benefits was adjudicated
in Plaintiff's favor when she was a child; she was
awarded benefits until she turned eighteen. (R. 36).
Plaintiff filed the instant application on June 26, 2013,
alleging a disability onset of August 1, 2007, due to
rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. (Id.; R. 222).
evaluating the disability of individuals over the age of
eighteen, the regulations prescribe a five-step sequential
evaluation process. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520, 416.920; Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274,
1278 (11th Cir. 2001). The first step requires a
determination whether the claimant is performing substantial
gainful activity ("SGA"). 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(i). If the claimant is engaged in SGA, he or
she is not disabled and the evaluation stops. Id. If
the claimant is not engaged in SGA, the Commissioner proceeds
to consider the combined effects of all the claimant's
physical and mental impairments. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). These impairments must
be severe and must meet durational requirements before a
claimant will be found disabled. Id. The decision
depends on the medical evidence in the record. See Hart
v. Finch, 440 F.2d 1340, 1341 (5th Cir. 1971). If the
claimant's impairments are not severe, the analysis
stops. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii),
416.920(a)(4)(ii). Otherwise, the analysis continues to step
three, at which the Commissioner determines whether the
claimant's impairments meet the severity of an impairment
listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii).
If the impairments fall within this category, the claimant
will be found disabled without further consideration.
Id. If the impairments do not fall within the
listings, the Commissioner determines the claimant's
residual functional capacity ("RFC"). 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e).
four the Commissioner determines whether the impairments
prevent the claimant from returning to past relevant work. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If
the claimant is capable of performing past relevant work, he
or she is not disabled and the evaluation stops. Id.
If the claimant cannot perform past relevant work, the
analysis proceeds to the fifth step, at which the
Commissioner considers the claimant's RFC, as well as the
claimant's age, education, and past work experience, to
determine whether he or she can perform other work.
Id.; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v),
416.920(a)(4)(v). If the claimant can do other work, he or
she is not disabled. Id.
the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found Plaintiff
had not engaged in SGA since her application date. (R. 38).
At step two, the ALJ found Plaintiff suffered from the
following severe impairments: rheumatoid arthritis;
undifferentiated connective tissue disease; Raynaud's
Syndrome, and lupus. (R. 38-39).
three, the ALJ found Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments meeting or medically equaling any
of the listed impairments. (R. 39-41). Before proceeding to
step four, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the RFC to
perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b)
with the following limitations:
[T]he claimant can sit at least two hours without
interruption and a total of at least six hours over the
course of an eight-hour workday. The claimant can stand
and/or walk at least two hours without interruption and a
total of at least six hours over the course of an eight-hour
workday. The claimant cannot climb ropes, poles, scaffolds or
ladders. The claimant can occasionally climb ramps and
stairs. The claimant can frequently use her upper extremities
for reaching overhead, pushing, pulling, handling and
fingering. The claimant can occasionally balance, stoop,
kneel and crouch. The claimant cannot crawl. The claimant can
occasionally work in humidity, wetness, and extreme
temperatures. The claimant can occasionally work in dusts,
gases, odors and fumes. The claimant cannot work in poorly
ventilated areas. The claimant cannot work at unprotected
heights. The claimant cannot work with operating hazardous
machinery. The claimant can occasionally work while exposed
to vibration. The claimant can occasionally operate motorized
vehicles. The claimant can respond appropriately to the
public; however, the claimant is limited to work activity
that does not require interaction with the public (due to
fear of possible infection and not mental impairment).
four, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had no past relevant work.
(R. 52). Because the Plaintiff's RFC did not allow for
the full range of light work, the ALJ relied on the testimony
of a vocational expert ("VE") in finding a
significant number of jobs in the national economy Plaintiff
can perform. (R. 52-53). The ALJ concluded by finding
Plaintiff was not disabled. (R. 53).
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 Fed.Appx. 839, 841 (11th Cir. 2013) (citing Crawford
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th
Cir. 2004)). A 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).
a 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 a court finds that the
proof preponderates ...