Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Dade v. Berryhill

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

June 27, 2018

NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Sybil Jones Dade (hereinafter “Plaintiff”), seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her 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 12, 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 her application for benefits on July 21, 2014, alleging disability beginning December 31, 2012, based on “back, pinch[ed] nerve, blurred vision, vertigo, and diabetes.” (Doc. 15 at 182, 211, 217). Plaintiff's application was denied and upon timely request, she was granted an administrative hearing before Administrative Law Judge Laura Robinson (hereinafter “ALJ”) on April 27, 2016. (Id. at 69). Plaintiff attended the hearing with her counsel and provided testimony related to her claims. (Id.). A vocational expert (“VE”) also appeared at the hearing and provided testimony. (Id. at 81). On June 24, 2016, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding that Plaintiff is not disabled. (Id. at 43). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on June 2, 2017. (Id. at 5). Therefore, the ALJ's decision dated June 24, 2016, became the final decision of the Commissioner.

         Having exhausted her administrative remedies, Plaintiff timely filed the present civil action. (Doc. 1). The parties waived oral argument on April 12, 2018. (Doc. 20). 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. Issues on Appeal 1. Whether substantial evidence supports the Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”) for a full range of light work given the ALJ's failure to order a second consultative medical examination?

         2. Whether the ALJ erred in relying on the GRIDS to find Plaintiff not disabled?

         3. Whether the ALJ erred in assessing Plaintiff's credibility?

         III. Factual Background

         Plaintiff was born on January 2, 1963, and was fifty-three years of age at the time of her administrative hearing on April 27, 2016. (Doc. 15 at 211). Plaintiff completed the tenth grade in high school and is able to read. (Id. at 73-74).

         Plaintiff last worked from 2013 to 2014 as a house cleaner and a private sitter. (Id. at 74, 80-81). Prior to that, she worked part-time as a cashier. (Id.).

         Plaintiff testified that she can no longer work due to back pain, swelling in her feet, and carpal tunnel syndrome. (Id. at 74). According to Plaintiff, she takes Lasix for diabetes, which is now under control, and Mobic and Lyrica for back and neck pain. (Id. at 75). Some of her medications cause drowsiness and dizziness. (Id. at 76, 81).

         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.[2]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 Regulatory Framework

         An individual who applies for Social Security disability benefits must prove his or her disability. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1512, 416.912. Disability is defined as 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); see also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505(a), 416.905(a). The Social Security regulations provide a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining if a claimant has proven his disability. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.

         The claimant must first prove that he or she has not engaged in substantial gainful activity. The second step requires the claimant to prove that he or she has a severe impairment or combination of impairments. If, at the third step, the claimant proves that the impairment or combination of impairments meets or equals a listed impairment, then the claimant is automatically found disabled regardless of age, education, or work experience. If the claimant cannot prevail at the third step, he or she must proceed to the fourth step where the claimant must prove an inability to perform their past relevant work. Jones v. Bowen, 810 F.2d 1001, 1005 (11th Cir. 1986). At the fourth step, the ALJ must make an assessment of the claimant's RFC. See Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1238 (llth Cir. 2004). The RFC is an assessment, based on all relevant medical and other evidence, of a claimant's remaining ability to work despite his impairment. See Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1440 (llth Cir. 1997).

         If a claimant meets his or her burden at the fourth step, it then becomes the Commissioner's burden to prove at the fifth step that the claimant is capable of engaging in another kind of substantial gainful employment which exists in significant numbers in the national economy, given the claimant's residual functional capacity, age, education, and work history. Sryock v. Heckler, 764 F.2d 834, 836 (11th Cir. 1985). If the Commissioner can demonstrate that there are such jobs the claimant can perform, the claimant must prove inability to perform those jobs in order to be found disabled. Jones v. Apfel, 190 F.3d 1224, 1228 (11th Cir. 1999). See also Hale v. Bowen, 831 F.2d 1007, 1011 (11th Cir. 1987) (citing Francis v. Heckler, 749 F.2d 1562, 1564 (11th Cir. 1985)).

         VI. Discussion

         A. Substantial evidence supports the Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”) for a full range of light work and the ALJ's decision not to order an additional consultative medical examination.

         In her brief, Plaintiff argues that the RFC for a full range of light work is not supported by substantial evidence, particularly given the ALJ's failure to order a second consultative examination in order to obtain an expert opinion on her limitations with respect to standing and walking caused by the swelling and pain in her legs from diabetes. (Doc. 16 at 4, 8). The Government counters that the RFC is fully supported by the substantial evidence and that the ALJ was not required to order an additional consultative examination given that the record contained substantial evidence to allow the ALJ to make an informed decision on ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.