Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
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.

Santiago v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division

June 29, 2018

FRANCISCO SANTIAGO, as husband of Michelle Ann Portillo, the deceased wage earner, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c), plaintiff Francisco Santiago, as husband of Michelle Ann Portillo, deceased, seeks judicial review of a final adverse decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. The Commissioner denied Ms. Portillo's claims for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits. After careful review, the Court affirms the Commissioner's decision.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Ms. Portillo applied for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income on December 1, 2014. (Doc. 7-4, pp. 3, 5). Ms. Portillo alleged that her disability began on September 1, 2012. (Doc. 7- 4, pp. 3, 5). The Commissioner initially denied Ms. Portillo's claims on May 4, 2015. (Doc. 7-5, pp. 2-10). On May 8, 2015, Ms. Portillo requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Doc. 7-5, p. 13). Ms. Portillo passed away on April 16, 2016, and her husband, plaintiff Francisco Santiago, was substituted as a party. (Doc. 7-5, p. 66; Doc. 7-7, p. 23).

         The ALJ conducted a hearing on July 28, 2016, and he issued a partially favorable decision on August 19, 2016. (Doc. 7-3, pp. 15-59). The ALJ found that Ms. Portillo was disabled as of December 1, 2014, the date of her applications. The ALJ found that Ms. Portillo was not entitled to disability insurance benefits because the ALJ determined that Ms. Portillo was not disabled from her alleged onset date of September 1, 2012 through her date last insured of September 30, 2013. The ALJ found that Ms. Portillo was entitled to supplemental security income because she was disabled on December 1, 2014, the date she applied for benefits. (Doc. 7-3, p. 29).[1] On December 8, 2016, the Appeals Council declined Mr. Santiago's request for review (Doc. 7-3, pp. 2-4), making the Commissioner's decision final and a proper candidate for this Court's judicial review. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The scope of review in this matter is limited. “When, as in this case, the ALJ denies benefits and the Appeals Council denies review, ” the Court “review[s] the ALJ's ‘factual findings with deference' and [his] ‘legal conclusions with close scrutiny.'” Riggs v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 522 Fed.Appx. 509, 510-11 (11th Cir. 2013) (quoting Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th Cir. 2001)).

         The Court must determine whether there is substantial evidence in the record to support the ALJ's factual findings. “Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Crawford v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004). In evaluating the administrative record, the Court may not “decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, ” or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011) (internal quotations and citation omitted). If substantial evidence supports the ALJ's factual findings, then the Court “must affirm even if the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's findings.” Costigan v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., 603 Fed.Appx. 783, 786 (11th Cir. 2015) (citing Crawford, 363 F.3d at 1158).

         With respect to the ALJ's legal conclusions, the Court must determine whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards. If the Court finds an error in the ALJ's application of the law, or if the Court finds that the ALJ failed to provide sufficient reasoning to demonstrate that the ALJ conducted a proper legal analysis, then the Court must reverse the ALJ's decision. Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991).

         III. SUMMARY OF THE ALJ'S DECISION

         To determine whether a claimant has proven that she is disabled, an ALJ follows a five-step sequential evaluation process. The ALJ considers:

(1) whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the impairment meets or equals the severity of the specified impairments in the Listing of Impairments; (4) based on a residual functional capacity (“RFC”) assessment, whether the claimant can perform any of his or her past relevant work despite the impairment; and (5) whether there are significant numbers of jobs in the national economy that the claimant can perform given the claimant's RFC, age, education, and work experience.

Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178.

         In this case, the ALJ found that Ms. Portillo had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 1, 2012, the alleged onset date. (Doc. 7-3, p. 21). The ALJ determined that from the alleged onset date of September 1, 2012 through the date last insured of September 30, 2013, Ms. Portillo suffered from the following severe impairments: anxiety disorder; history of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma; history of carpel tunnel syndrome, left; history of hepatitis C; peripheral neuropathy; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease/asthma; gastroesophageal reflux disease; and degenerative joint disease, right knee. (Doc. 7-3, p. 21). The ALJ determined that Ms. Portillo suffered from the non-severe impairment of history of hypertension. (Doc. 7-3, p. 22). Based on a review of the medical evidence, the ALJ concluded that before December 1, 2014, Ms. Portillo did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of any of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Doc. 7-3, p. 21).

         In light of Ms. Portillo's impairments, the ALJ evaluated Ms. Portillo's residual functional capacity. The ALJ determined that before September 30, 2013, Ms. Portillo's date last insured, Ms. Portillo had the RFC to perform:

light exertional work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b). The undersigned further finds, however, that the full range of light work that could have been performed by the claimant is reduced by the following functional limitations: the claimant would require a sit/stand option with the retained ability to stay on or at a work station in no less than 30 minute increments each without significant reduction of remaining on task and she was able to ambulate short distances up to 75 yards per instance on flat hard surfaces. She was able to occasionally use bilateral foot controls, occasionally use left, non-dominant hand controls, and frequently use right dominant hand controls. She could have frequently reached overhead as well as all other directions with the left non-dominant hand. She could have frequently handled, fingered and felt with the left non-dominant hand. She could have occasionally climbed ramps and stairs but never have climbed ladders or scaffolds. She could have frequently balanced and stooped but could never have crouched, kneeled, or crawled. The claimant could never have been exposed to unprotected heights, dangerous machinery, dangerous tools, hazardous processes, or operated commercial vehicles. She could have tolerated no exposure to concentrated dust, fumes, gases, or other pulmonary irritants. The undersigned further finds that the claimant could have only remembered short simple instructions and would have been unable to deal with detailed or complex instructions. She could have done simple routine repetitive tasks but would have been unable to do detailed or complex tasks. She would have been limited to making simple work related decisions. The claimant should have had no more than occasional interaction with the general-public but could have frequent interaction with co-workers and ...

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.