United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
E. OTT CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
John Henry Hedrick, III, 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. (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. 12). 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 reversed and
remanded for further proceedings consistent with this
filed for disability benefits, alleging that he was disabled
beginning March 17, 2014. (R. 93, 144-45). After his
application was denied by the State Agency, he requested a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) on August 7, 2014. An ALJ held a hearing
on April 7, 2016 (R. 38-78) and issued a decision on June 17,
2016, finding Plaintiff was not disabled. (R. 22-34). The
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on
April 28, 2017. (R. 1). The Commissioner's final decision
is ripe for judicial review. See 42 U.S.C. §
was 60 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. He
has worked in the past as a general manager, a supervisor of
underground surface mines, a safety department supervisor, a
safety director, and a plant superintendent. (R. 31, 70-71).
He last engaged in substantial gainful employment on March
13, 2014. (R. 21).
an administrative hearing, the ALJ determined Plaintiff has
the following severe impairments: a history of complex
partial epileptic seizure; idiopathic peripheral neuropathy;
vertigo and vertiginous syndrome; status post right ankle
fusion; coronary artery disease with stent placement and
carotid artery stenosis; hypertension; hyperlipidemia;
obesity; and, a history of alcohol dependence in sustained
remission. (R. 23). The ALJ also found that Plaintiff
retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
to perform medium work in close proximity to others that
involves frequent balancing, stooping, and use of right foot
controls; occasional crouching, kneeling, crawling, use of
bilateral hand controls, and ramp and stair climbing; and no
ladder or scaffold climbing or exposure to unprotected
heights. (R. 26-31). He also found that Plaintiff could not
return to his previous work, but could perform other work as
a hand packager, a laborer or an off bearer. (R. 32-33). He
then concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled. (R. 33).
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 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)(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 that (1) the ALJ failed to afford proper weight to the
opinion of State Agency Consultant Dr. William Russell May
and (2) the ALJ's RFC findings are unsupported and not
based on ...