United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
E. OTT CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Annette Ford brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), seeking review of the final decision of the Acting
Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”)
denying her Disability Income Benefits (“DIB”).
(Doc. 1). The case has been assigned to the
undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to this
court's general order of reference. The parties have
consented to the jurisdiction of this court for disposition
of the matter. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c),
Fed.R.Civ.P. 73(a). Upon review of the record and the
relevant law, the undersigned finds that the
Commissioner's decision is due to be affirmed.
filed her application for DIB benefits on August 8, 2014,
alleging she became disabled beginning April 19, 2012. It was
initially denied by an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”). The Appeals Council (“AC”)
denied Plaintiff's request for review. (R.
The matter is ripe for judicial review.
previously applied for DIB in May 2010, but an ALJ denied her
application on May 18, 2012. (R. 67-96). The AC denied her
request for review, and she did not seek judicial review. (R.
100-03). That decision is final and binding. (R. 18).
Accordingly, the proper onset date for purposes of review is
May 19, 2012. (Id.)
was 55 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision that
is under review. (R. 36-37). She previously worked as a
machine assembler and house supervisor. (R. 36, 61). She
alleges disability due to chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease (“COPD”), fibromyalgia, depression,
anxiety, migraine headaches, “merolgie, ” and
panic attacks. (R. 212).
Plaintiff's hearing, the ALJ found that she last met the
insured status requirements of the Social Security Act on
December 31, 2014. (R. 20). Plaintiff had the medically
determinable severe impairments of osteoarthritis, meralgia
peresthetica,  COPD, mild degenerative disc disease,
fibromyalgia, anxiety and depression. (R. 21). The ALJ also
found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or equaled the severity
of a listed impairment. (Id.) He further found that
Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform medium work with limitations.
(R. 24). He determined that Plaintiff did not have the
ability to perform her past relevant work. (R. 36). He
further found that based on Plaintiff's age, education,
work experience and RFC, and the testimony of a vocational
expert (“VE”), Plaintiff could work as an
assembler, laundry worker, and hand packer. (R. 36-37). The
ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled. (R. 37).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
narrowly circumscribed. The function of the court is to
determine whether the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence and whether proper legal
standards were applied. Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 390, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 1422 (1971); Mitchell v.
Comm'r Soc. Sec., 771 F.3d 780, 782 (11th Cir. 2015;
Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1221 (11th Cir.
2002). The 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).
Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. It is “more than a
scintilla, but less than a preponderance.” Id.
court must uphold factual findings that are supported by
substantial evidence. However, it reviews the ALJ's legal
conclusions 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, it must reverse the ALJ's decision.
See Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46
(11th Cir. 1991). The court must affirm the ALJ's
decision if substantial evidence supports it, even if other
evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's
findings. See Crawford v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004) (quoting
Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th
STATUTORY AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
qualify for benefits a claimant must show 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). A
physical or mental impairment is “an impairment that
results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological
abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable
clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(3).
of disability under the Social Security Act requires a five
step analysis. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a). Specifically,
the Commissioner must determine in sequence:
whether the claimant: (1) is unable to engage in substantial
gainful activity; (2) has a severe medically determinable
physical or mental impairment; (3) has such an impairment
that meets or equals a Listing and meets the duration
requirements; (4) can perform his past relevant work, in
light of his residual functional capacity; and (5) can make
an adjustment to other work, in light of his residual
functional capacity, age, education, and work experience.
Evans v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 551 Fed.Appx. 521,
524 (11th Cir. 2014). The plaintiff bears the burden of proving
that she was disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act. Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1211
(11th Cir. 2005); see also 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a). The applicable “regulations place a very
heavy burden on the claimant to demonstrate both a qualifying
disability and an inability to perform past relevant
asserts that the ALJ erred in that he failed to properly
assess her limitations and complaints of pain. (Doc. 11 at
4-11). She argues that the ALJ (1) failed to properly
consider the medical evidence, (2) improperly relied on her
daily activities, and (3) failed to find her mental
limitations disabling. (Id.) The Commissioner
responds that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's
evaluation of Plaintiff's subjective statements. (Doc. 12
at 4-12). Each area will be addressed below.