United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Western Division
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS, United States District Judge
Annie Thomas, representing herself pro se, brings
this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Ms. Thomas seeks a
review of a final adverse decision of the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”),
who denied her application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) and supplemental security income
(“SSI”). Ms. Thomas exhausted the administrative
remedies available before the Commissioner. This case is now
ripe for judicial review under section 205(g) of the Social
Security Act (the "Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Court carefully reviewed the record in this case and
AFFIRMS the ALJ's decision.
alleged onset date is August 20, 2013. (Tr. 104). Mr. Thomas
suffers from numerous impairments, but none that the ALJ
found to disable her. (See Id. at 106, 114). On
August 20, 2013, Ms. Thomas filed an application for Social
Security benefits. (Id. at 104). The Social Security
Administration denied that application on November 27, 2013.
(Id.). On April 23, 2015, Administrative Law Judge
Cynthia W. Brown held a hearing. (Id.). Attorney
George Harris represented Ms. Thomas at the administrative
level. (Id.). The ALJ issued her decision on July
30, 2015, which was unfavorable to Ms. Thomas. (Id.
at 114). In that opinion, the ALJ found that Ms. Thomas did
not meet the disability standard at Steps Three and Five.
(Id. at 107, 113). Ms. Thomas requested the Appeals
Council review the claim. (Id. at 97). They refused.
(Id.). Ms. Thomas filed her complaint in the
Northern District of Alabama on June 5, 2017. (Doc. 1). She
is proceeding pro se. (See Id. at 4).
court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
narrowly circumscribed. The function of this court is to
determine whether the decision of the Commissioner is
supported by substantial evidence and whether proper legal
standards were applied. Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 390 (1971); Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d
1219, 1221 (11th Cir. 2002). This 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). This court will determine that
the ALJ's opinion is supported by substantial evidence if
it finds “such relevant evidence as a reasonable person
would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Id. Substantial evidence is “more than a
scintilla, but less than a preponderance.” Id.
Factual findings that are supported by substantial evidence
must be upheld by the court.
ALJ's legal conclusions, however, are reviewed 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, the ALJ's
decision must be reversed. Cornelius v. Sullivan,
936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991).
Statutory and Regulatory Framework
qualify for disability benefits and establish his or her
entitlement for a period of disability, a claimant must be
disabled as defined by the Social Security Act and the
Regulations promulgated thereunder. The Regulations define
“disabled” as “the inability to do 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
twelve (12) months.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a). To
establish an entitlement to disability benefits, a claimant
must provide evidence about a “physical or mental
impairment” that “must result from anatomical,
physiological, or psychological abnormalities which can be
shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory
diagnostic techniques.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1508.
Regulations provide a five-step process for determining
whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(i-v). The Commissioner must determine in
(1) whether the claimant is currently employed;
(2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment;
(3) whether the claimant's impairment meets or equals an
impairment listed by the [Commissioner];
(4) whether the claimant can perform his or her past work;
(5) whether the claimant is capable of performing any work in
the national economy.
Pope v. Shalala, 998 F.2d 473, 477 (7th Cir. 1993)
(citing to formerly applicable C.F.R. section), overruled
on other grounds by Johnson v. Apfel, 189 F.3d 561,
562-63 (7th Cir. 1999); accord McDaniel v. Bowen,
800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir. 1986). The sequential analysis
goes as follows:
Once the claimant has satisfied steps One and Two, she will
automatically be found disabled if she suffers from a listed
impairment. If the claimant does not have a listed impairment
but cannot perform her work, the burden shifts to the