United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division
WALLACE CAPEL, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
November 2013, Kenneth Allen Overton
(“Plaintiff”) filed an application for Disability
Insurance Benefits under the Social Security Act (“the
Act”) alleging disability beginning on April 1, 2013.
Plaintiff's application for SSI was denied initially and
upon reconsideration. Plaintiff then requested and received a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) on September 22, 2015. Following the
hearing, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff had not
been under a disability since April 1, 2013, as defined in
the Social Security Act. Plaintiff appealed to the Appeals
Council and, on March 1, 2017, the Appeals Council denied
review of the ALJ's decision. Accordingly, 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). The case
is now before the court for review under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), both parties
have consented to the conduct of all proceedings and entry of
a final judgment by the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge. Pl.'s Consent to Jurisdiction (Doc. 10);
Def.'s Consent to Jurisdiction (Doc. 11). Based on the
court's review of the record and the briefs of the
parties, the court REVERSES the decision of the Commissioner
and REMANDS the matter for further proceedings.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A), a person is entitled to
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).
this determination, the Commissioner employs a five-step,
sequential evaluation process. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920.
(1) Is the person presently unemployed?
(2) Is the person's impairment severe?
(3) Does the person's impairment meet or equal one of the
specific impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt.
P, App. 1 [the Listing of Impairments]?
(4) Is the person unable to perform his or her former
(5) Is the person unable to perform any other work within the
economy? An affirmative answer to any of the above questions
leads either to the next question, or, on steps three and
five, to a finding of disability. A negative answer to any
question, other than step three, leads to a determination of
McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir.
burden of proof rests on a claimant through Step Four.
See Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1237-39
(11th Cir. 2004). A claimant establishes a prima facie case
of qualifying disability once they have carried the burden of
proof from Step One through Step Four. At Step Five, the
burden shifts to the Commissioner, who must then show there
are a significant number of jobs in the national economy the
claimant can perform. Id.
perform the fourth and fifth steps, the ALJ must determine
the claimant's Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”). Id. at 1238-39. The RFC is what
the claimant is still able to do despite the claimant's
impairments and is based on all relevant medical and other
evidence. Id. It may contain both exertional and
nonexertional limitations. Id. 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.
Id. at 1239. To do this, the ALJ can either use the
Medical Vocational Guidelines (“grids”) or call a
vocational expert (“VE”). Id. at
grids allow the ALJ to consider factors such as age,
confinement to sedentary or light work, inability to speak
English, educational deficiencies, and lack of job
experience. Each factor can independently limit the number of
jobs realistically available to an individual. Id.
at 1240. Combinations of these factors yield a
statutorily-required finding of “Disabled” or
“Not Disabled.” Id.
court's review of the Commissioner's decision is a
limited one. This court must find the Commissioner's
decision conclusive if it is supported by substantial
evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Graham v. Apfel,
129 F.3d 1420, 1422 (11th Cir. 1997). “Substantial
evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than a
preponderance. It is such relevant ...