United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE
F. MOORER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
administrative denial of her application for child disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act
and Supplemental Security Income benefits under Title XVI of
the Social Security Act, Brandy Nicole Love
(“Love” or “Plaintiff”) received a
requested hearing and follow-up hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) who rendered an
unfavorable decision. When the Appeals Council rejected
review, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”). See Chester v. Bowen,
792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir. 1986). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1), this case was referred to the undersigned
United States Magistrate Judge for review and submission of a
report with recommended findings of fact and conclusions of
law (Doc. 20, entered 5/23/18). Judicial review proceeds
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and 42 U.S.C. §
1383(c)(3). For reasons herein explained, the Magistrate
Judge recommends the Commissioner's decision denying
child disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income benefits be AFFIRMED.
Nature of the Case
seeks judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security
Administration's decision denying her application for
child's disability insurance benefits and supplemental
security income benefits. United States district courts may
conduct limited review of such decisions to determine whether
they comply with applicable law and are supported by
substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405 (2006). The court
may affirm, reverse and remand with instructions, or reverse
and render a judgment. Id.
Standard of Review
review of the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits is
narrowly circumscribed. The court reviews a social security
case solely to determine whether the Commissioner's
decision is supported by substantial evidence and based upon
proper legal standards. Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011). The court
“may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence,
or substitute [its] judgment for that of the Commissioner,
” but rather “must defer to the
Commissioner's decision if it is supported by substantial
evidence.” Miles v. Chater, 84 F.3d 1397, 1400
(11th Cir. 1997) (quoting Bloodsworth v. Heckler,
703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983)); see also
Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178 (stating the court should not
re-weigh the evidence). This court must find the
Commissioner's decision conclusive “if it is
supported by substantial evidence and the correct legal
standards were applied.” Kelley v. Apfel, 185
F.3d 1211, 1213 (11th Cir. 1999); see also Kosloff v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 581 Fed.Appx. 811, 811 (11th
Cir. 2015) (citing Kelley).
evidence is more than a scintilla - i.e., the evidence must
do more than merely create a suspicion of the existence of a
fact, and must include such relevant evidence as a reasonable
person would accept as adequate to support the conclusion.
Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178 (quoting Crawford v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir.
2004)); Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436, 1440
(citing Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91
S.Ct. 1420, 1427, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971)). If the
Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial
evidence, the district court will affirm, even if the court
would have reached a contrary result as finder of fact, and
even if the court finds that the evidence preponderates
against the Commissioner's decision. Edwards v.
Sullivan, 937 F.2d 580, 584 n.3 (11th Cir. 1991);
see also Henry v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 802 F.3d
1264, 1267 (11th Cir. 2015) (“even if the evidence
preponderates against the Commissioner's
findings, we must affirm if the decision reached is supported
by substantial evidence.”) (citation omitted). The
district court must view the record as a whole, taking into
account evidence favorable as well as unfavorable to the
decision. Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1560 (11th
Cir. 1995) (citing Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129,
131 (11th Cir. 1986)).
district court will reverse a Commissioner's decision on
plenary review if the decision applies incorrect law, or if
the decision fails to provide the district court with
sufficient reasoning to determine that the Commissioner
properly applied the law. Keeton v. Department of Health
and Human Services, 21 F.3d 1064, 1066 (11th Cir. 1994)
(internal citations omitted). There is no presumption that
the Secretary's conclusions of law are valid.
Id.; Brown v. Sullivan, 921 F.2d 1233, 1236
(11th Cir. 1991).
Statutory and Regulatory Framework 
Social Security Act's general disability insurance
benefits program (“DIB”) provides income to
individuals who are forced into involuntary, premature
retirement, provided they are both insured and disabled,
regardless of indigence. See 42 U.S.C. § 423(a).
The Social Security Act's Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) is a separate and distinct program. SSI
is a general public assistance measure providing an
additional resource to the aged, blind, and disabled to
assure that their income does not fall below the poverty
line. Childhood disability insurance benefits
(“CDIB”) are rendered to a disabled adult under
the old-age and survivors insurance benefits section of the
Social Security Act. See 42 U.S.C. § 402(d). In
order to receive CDIB as a disabled adult, a claimant must
establish that he or she is the child of an individual who is
entitled to old-age or disability insurance benefits and is
dependent on the insured, is unmarried, and was under a
disability as defined in the Act that began before he
attained the age of twenty-two. See 42 U.S.C.
§§ 402(d)(1), 423(d)(1)(A); 20 C.F.R. §
under DIB and SSI must prove “disability” within
the meaning of the Social Security Act which defines
disability in virtually identical language for both programs.
See 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d), 1382c(a)(3),
1382c(a)(3)(G); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505(a),
416.905(a). However, despite the fact they are separate
programs, the law and regulations governing a claim for DIB
and a claim for SSI are identical; therefore, claims for DIB
and SSI are treated identically for the purpose of
determining whether a claimant is disabled. Patterson v.
Bowen, 799 F.2d 1455, 1456 n. 1 (11th Cir. 1986). The
only distinction with the case at hand are the added elements
of CDIB. A person is entitled to disability benefits when the
person is unable 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
42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A); 1382c(a)(3)(A). A
“physical or mental impairment” is one resulting
from anatomical, physiological, or psychological
abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable
clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. 42 U.S.C.
§§ 423(d)(3), 1382c(a)(3)(D).
Commissioner utilizes a five-step, burden-shifting analysis
to determine when claimants are disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520; Phillips v. Barnhart, 357
F.3d 1232, 1237 (11th Cir. 2004); O'Neal v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 614 Fed.Appx. 456, (11th Cir.
2015). The ALJ determines:
(1) Whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial
(2) Whether the claimant has a severe impairment or
combination of impairments;
(3) Whether the impairment meets or exceeds one of the
impairments in the listings;
(4) Whether the claimant can perform past relevant work; and
(5) Whether the claimant can perform other work in the
Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178; Doughty v.
Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th Cir. 2001). When a
claimant is found disabled - or not - at an early step, the
remaining steps are not considered. McDaniel v.
Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir. 1986). This
procedure is a fair and just way for determining disability
applications in conformity with the Social Security Act.
See Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 153, 107 S.Ct.
2287, 2297, 96 L.Ed.2d 119 (1987) (citing Heckler v.
Campbell, 461 U.S. 458, 461, 103 S.Ct. 1952, 1954, 76
L.Ed.2d 66 (1983)) (The use of the sequential evaluation
process “contribute[s] to the uniformity and efficiency
of disability determinations”).
burden of proof rests on the claimant through Step 4. See
Ostborg v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 610 Fed.Appx. 907,
915 (11th Cir. 2015); Phillips, 357 F.3d at 1237-39.
A prima facie case of qualifying disability exists
when a claimant carries the Step 1 through Step 4 burden.
Only at the fifth step does the burden shift to the
Commissioner, who must then show there are a significant
number of jobs in the national economy the claimant can
perform the fourth and fifth steps, the ALJ must determine
the claimant's Residual Functioning Capacity
(“RFC”). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4). RFC is
what the claimant is still able to do despite the
impairments, is based on all relevant medical and other
evidence, and can contain both exertional and nonexertional
limitations. Phillips, 357 F.3d at 1242-43. At the
fifth step, the ALJ considers the claimant's RFC, age,
education, and work experience to determine if there are jobs
available in the national economy the claimant can perform.