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Devillier v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

May 24, 2018

SCOTT J. DEVILLIER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          SONJA F. BIVINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Scott J. Devillier (hereinafter “Plaintiff”), seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his claim for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq., and 1381, et seq. On April 11, 2018, the parties consented to have the undersigned conduct any and all proceedings in this case. (Doc. 21). Thus, the action was referred to the undersigned to conduct all proceedings and order the entry of judgment in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73. Upon careful consideration of the administrative record and the memoranda of the parties, it is hereby ORDERED that the decision of the Commissioner be AFFIRMED.

         I. Procedural History [1]

         Plaintiff filed his applications for benefits in August 2013, alleging disability beginning January 27, 2012, based on “broken neck, surgical cage, protruding disc in back, PTSD, depression, suicidal thoughts, emotional withdrawal from family and friends, trouble socializing, anger problems, and rotator cuff.” (Doc. 11 at 268, 321). Plaintiff's application was denied and upon timely request, he was granted an administrative hearing before Administrative Law Judge Jeff Hughes (hereinafter “ALJ”) on July 24, 2015. (Id. at 112). Plaintiff attended the hearing, waived his right to counsel, and provided testimony related to his claims. (Id. at 117). A vocational expert (“VE”) also appeared at the hearing and provided testimony. (Id. at 157). On February 29, 2016, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding that Plaintiff is not disabled. (Id. at 93). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on June 2, 2017. (Id. at 6). Therefore, the ALJ's decision dated February 29, 2016, became the final decision of the Commissioner.

         Having exhausted his administrative remedies, Plaintiff timely filed the present civil action. (Doc. 1). Oral argument was conducted on May 16, 2018. (Doc. 24). This case is now ripe for judicial review and is properly before this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).

         II. Issue on Appeal

         Whether the ALJ reversibly erred in failing to expressly consider Listing 1.04A?

         III. Factual Background

         Plaintiff was born on January 2, 1976, and was thirty-nine years of age at the time of his administrative hearing on July 24, 2015. (Doc. 11 at 112, 316). Plaintiff graduated from high school and received training as a welder. (Id. at 120).

         Plaintiff last worked from 2013 to 2014 as a light maintenance worker at a bar.[2] (Id. at 122). Prior to that, he worked as a welder. (Id. at 122, 144-46, 308, 323).

         Plaintiff testified that he can no longer work because it hurts his back, neck, and legs when he lifts heavy objects, and he cannot sit for long periods of time. (Id. at 149-50). He takes medication for pain. (Id. at 128-29, 138, 149).

         IV. Standard of Review

         In reviewing claims brought under the Act, this Court's role is a limited one. The Court's review is limited to determining 1) whether the decision of the Secretary is supported by substantial evidence and 2) whether the correct legal standards were applied.[3]Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990). A court may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Sewell v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 1065, 1067 (11th Cir. 1986). The Commissioner's findings of fact must be affirmed if they are based upon substantial evidence. Brown v. Sullivan, 921 F.2d 1233, 1235 (11th Cir. 1991); Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983) (holding substantial evidence is defined as “more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance” and consists of “such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”). In determining whether substantial evidence exists, a court must view the record as a whole, taking into account evidence favorable, as well as unfavorable, to the Commissioner's decision. Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir. 1986); Short v. Apfel, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10163, *4 (S.D. Ala. June 14, 1999).

         V. Statutory and ...


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