United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
E. Ott Chief United States Magistrate Judge.
Kendrin Clepper 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 him disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”). (Doc. 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 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.
filed his current application in March 2014, alleging he
became disabled beginning July 1, 2010. It was initially
denied by an administrative law judge (“ALJ”).
The Appeals Council (“AC”) also denied
Plaintiff's request for review. (R. 1).
was 29 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision that
is under review. (R. 31). He has a high school education and
past work experience as a fast food worker, a rifle crew
member with the United States Marine Corps, and a coal mine
roof bolter. (R. 31). He alleges disability due to
depression, post-traumatic stress disorder
(“PTSD”), bilateral knee pain, bilateral hand
condition, nail nevus and right trapezius pain. (R. 64).
Plaintiff's administrative hearing, the ALJ found that he
had the following medically determinable severe impairments:
PTSD, depression, degnerative joint disease, eczema, history
of foot fracture, and toe deformity. (R. 23). He also found
Plaintiff's history of substance abuse, bilateral knee
strains, and pes planus were non-severe limitations on his
ability to work. (R. 24). He further found that Plaintiff did
not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met
or medically equaled a listed impairment. (Id.) The
ALJ determined that Plaintiff was capable of performing light
work with some limitations. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1567(b). After finding that Plaintiff could not perform
his past relevant work, the ALJ determined that he could
perform jobs existing in the national economy such as
electrical parts cleaner, fixture assembler, and line worker.
(R. 31-32, 66). Accordingly, he concluded Plaintiff was not
disabled. (R. 32).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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); Mitchell v.
Comm'r Soc. Sec., 771 F.3d 780, 782 (11th Cir. 2015;
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.
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). The court must affirm the ALJ's
decision if substantial evidence supports it, even if other
evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's
findings. See Crawford v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004) (quoting Martin v.
Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir.1990)).
STATUTORY AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
qualify for benefits 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. § 423(d)(1)(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. § 423(d)(3).
of disability under the Social Security Act requires a five
step analysis. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a). 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 other work, in light of his residual
functional capacity, age, education, and work experience.
Evans v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 551 Fed.Appx. 521,
524 (11th Cir. 2014). The plaintiff bears the burden of
proving that he was disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act. Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1211
(11th Cir. 2005). The applicable “regulations place a
very heavy burden on the claimant to demonstrate both a
qualifying disability and an inability to perform past
relevant work.” Id.
initially asserts that his impairments met the required level
of severity of Listing 12.06 - dealing with anxiety related
disorders - because he has satisfied the criteria of subpart
5 of paragraph A. (Doc. 10 at 6-9). The Commissioner responds
that this argument fails because “it completely ignores
the requirement that Plaintiff must also satisfy the
criteria of Listing 12.06's paragraph B or paragraph C
in addition to paragraph A.” (Doc. 11 at 8
(italics in original)). The undersigned agrees with the
can establish his disability if he proves his impairments
meet or equal a listing. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(iii); Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d
1274, 1278 (11th Cir. 2001); Barron v. Sullivan, 924
F.2d 227, 229 (11th Cir.1991).
To “meet” a Listing, a claimant must have a
diagnosis included in the Listings and must provide medical
reports documenting that the conditions meet the specific
criteria of the Listings and the duration requirement. ... To
“equal” a Listing, the medical findings must be