United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
E. OTT, CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Daniel Brady 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 for 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 Doc. 18). 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.
protectively filed his current DIB application on November
14, 2013, alleging he became disabled on June 1, 2001. (R.
17). He amended his disability onset date to April 1, 2014,
at his administrative hearing. (R. 42). The administrative
law judge (“ALJ”) issued an unfavorable decision
on January 29, 2016. (R. 17-29). Plaintiff submitted his
appeal to the Appeals Council. Upon consideration, the
Appeals Council found no reason to review the ALJ's
decision. (R. 1). The matter is now properly before this
was 61 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. He
has a high school education with three years of college. He
also has received a diploma for mechanical, electrical, and
architectural drafting training. (R. 44-45). Plaintiff
initially alleged disability due to depression, anxiety,
arthritis, post-traumatic stress disorder, diabetes, mini
strokes, and low testosterone. (R. 218).
a hearing, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following
medically determinable impairments: obesity; mild multilevel
degenerative disc and facet changes in the lumbar spine;
mid-foot arthritis in both feet; arthritis in the right
(non-dominant) shoulder; posttraumatic arthritis in the right
knee; type II diabetes mellitus; hypertension; status-post
rotator cuff repair of the left shoulder (2000); kidney
stones; controlled gastroesophageal reflux disease; a history
of headache disorder; cataracts; and macular degeneration.
(R. 19). He also found that Plaintiff's impairments did
not meet or equal any of the listed impairments. See
20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1. (R. 22). He further
found Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform the full range of medium work.
(R. 22-28). Next, he determined Plaintiff could perform his
past work as a maintenance mechanic and grocery clerk. (R.
28, 66). Accordingly, the ALJ determined Plaintiff was not
under a disability as defined in the Social Security Act. (R.
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); 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).
STATUTORY AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
qualify for DIB 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. § 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). The
claimant has the burden of producing evidence to support his
disability claim. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1512(a),
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 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) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)).
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
argues five grounds of error: First, the ALJ incorrectly
found that Plaintiff can perform his past work; Second, the
ALJ failed to afford adequate weight to the opinion of
Plaintiff's treating urologist; Third, the ALJ failed to
state adequate reasons for finding Plaintiff not credible;
Fourth, the ALJ failed to develop the record; and Fifth, the
ALJ failed to consider all of Plaintiff's severe
impairments. (Doc. 11 at 1-2). Each argument will be
Past Relevant Work
argues that the ALJ failed to perform an analysis of his past
work and make specific findings regarding the physical and
mental demands of that work. (Doc. 11 at 16-19). The
Commissioner responds that the ALJ adequately considered
Plaintiff's prior work history and substantial evidence
supports the ALJ's determination that Plaintiff could
perform his past relevant work. (Doc. 15 at 5-7). She also
argues that Plaintiff has not identified any demands of his
prior positions that are inconsistent with his RFC.
record shows that the ALJ relied on testimony from a
vocational expert (“VE”) concerning
Plaintiff's past work experience. (R. 65-70). The VE
testified that Plaintiff's past, relevant work as a
maintenance mechanic was performed at a medium, skilled
level. The VE identified the position in the Dictionary of
Occupational Titles (“DOT”) § 638.281-014.
(R. 66). See 1991 WL 685519. The VE also testified that
Plaintiff's past, relevant work as a grocery clerk was
performed at a medium, semi-skilled level. He again
identified the position in the DOT at § 290.477-018. (R.
66). See 1991 WL 672555. The VE further testified
that a hypothetical individual with Plaintiff's
vocational profile and a limitation to medium work could
perform both jobs comprising his past, relevant work. (R.
issue was previously raised by Plaintiff's counsel in
Holder v. Berryhill, 2018 WL 1857061 (N.D. Ala. Apr.
18, 2018). United States District Judge Virginia E. Hopkins
Holder argues that Nelms v. Bowen and Schnorr v.
Bowen control.... (citing Nelms v. Bowen,
803 F.2d 1164, 1165 (11th Cir. 1986); Schnorr v.
Bowen, 816 F.2d 578, 581 (11th Cir. 1987)).
Nelms stands for the idea that “[i]n the
absence of evidence of the physical requirements and demands
of appellant's work the ALJ could not properly determine
that she retained the residual functional capacity to perform
it.” Nelms, 803 F.2d at 1165. Similarly,
Schnorr stands for the idea that “[w]here
there is no evidence of the physical requirements and demands
of the claimant's past work and no detailed description
of the required duties was solicited or proffered, the
Secretary cannot properly determine whether the claimant has
the residual functional capacity to perform his past relevant
work.” Schnorr, 816 F.2d at 581.
The Commissioner cites to the Eleventh Circuit in
Waldrop.... (citing Waldrop v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 379 Fed.Appx. 948, 953 (11th Cir. 2010)).
That case states, in relevant part:
Because the record demonstrates that the ALJ considered the
DOT and the VE's testimony, Waldrop's claim that the
ALJ failed to adequately develop the record lacks merit.
Moreover, even if the ALJ erred by failing to ask additional
questions about the physical demands posed by Waldrop's
past work as a human resources clerk, this error did not
prejudice Waldrop, as Mancini's expert testimony
demonstrated that Waldrop could perform this job as it is
performed in the general economy.
Waldrop, 379 Fed.Appx. at 953. This Court agrees with
this logic. The ALJ properly developed the record surrounding
Holder's employment as she performed it because he had a
work history report ..., the benefit of a hearing where
Holder was represented by counsel who could develop this
record ..., the help of an impartial vocational expert...,
he relied on the Dictionary of Occupational Titles ....
Additionally, “[w]hile [claimant] points out that the
record contains limited information concerning her duties [in
her past relevant work], it is the claimant's burden
to demonstrate not only that she can no longer perform
her past relevant work as she actually performed it, but
also that she can no longer perform this work as it is
performed in the general economy.” See
Waldrop, 379 Fed.Appx. at 953 (emphasis added).
Holder, 2018 WL 1857061, *3-4 (underlining in
undersigned agrees with the reasoning of Judge Hopkins.
Applying that reasoning to this case, the court finds that
Plaintiff is not entitled to any relief on this claim for
various reasons. First, the VE's testimony, including the
references to the DOT, provides substantial evidence that
Plaintiff could perform his past relevant work. Second,
Plaintiff has not demonstrated that he can no longer preform
his past relevant work either as he performed it previously
or as the work is generally performed in the national
economy. Third, Plaintiff has not shown that any demand
associated with either the maintenance mechanic position or
the grocery clerk position is inconsistent with his RFC as
determined by the ALJ. Thus, the court finds that the
determination of the ALJ is supported by substantial evidence
and that Plaintiff is not entitled to any relief.