United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
F. BIVINS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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.
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.
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).
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?
Whether the ALJ erred in relying on the GRIDS to find
Plaintiff not disabled?
Whether the ALJ erred in assessing Plaintiff's
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).
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.).
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).
Standard of Review
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.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).
Statutory and Regulatory Framework
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.
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).
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)).
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.
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