United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
CHARLES S. COODY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Introduction. The plaintiff applied for disability insurance
benefits pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act, 42
U.S.C. § 401 et seq. and for supplemental security
income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq., alleging that he was unable to
work because of a disability. His application was denied at
the initial administrative level. The plaintiff then
requested and received a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge ("ALJ"). Following the hearing, the ALJ also
denied the claim. The Appeals Council rejected a subsequent
request for review. The ALJ's decision consequently
became the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (Commissioner). See Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d
129, 131 (11th Cir. 1986). The case is now before
the court for review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405
(g) and 1383(c)(3). Based on the court's review of the
record in this case and the briefs of the parties, the court
concludes that the decision of the Commissioner should be
reversed and the case remanded to the Commissioner for
further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Standard of Review
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
this determination the Commissioner employs a five step,
sequential evaluation process. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920.
(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).
standard of review of the Commissioner's decision is a
limited one. This court must find the Commissioner's
decision conclusive if it is supported by substantial
evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Ingram v. Comm. of
Soc. Sec. Admin., 496 F.3d 1253, 1260 (11th
Cir. 2007). "Substantial evidence is more than a
scintilla, but less than a preponderance. It is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to
support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales,
402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Crawford v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158-59 (11th Cir. 2004). A
reviewing court may not look only to those parts of the
record which supports the decision of the ALJ but instead
must view the record in its entirety and take account of
evidence which detracts from the evidence relied on by the
ALJ. Hillsman v. Bowen, 804 F.2d 1179, 1180
(11th Cir. 1986). The court "may not decide
the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute . . .
[its] judgment for that of the [Commissioner]."
Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1240 n. 8 (11th
Cir. 2004) (alteration in original) (quotation marks
[The court must, however, ] . . . scrutinize the record in
its entirety to determine the reasonableness of the
[Commissioner's] . . . factual findings . . . No similar
presumption of validity attaches to the [Commissioner's]
. . . legal conclusions, including determination of the
proper standards to be applied in evaluating claims.
Walker v. Bowen, 826 F.2d 996, 999 (11th