United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
MICHAEL PUTNAM, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
plaintiff, Glory Jean Deloney, appeals from the decision of
the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”) denying her application for a
period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”). Deloney timely pursued and exhausted her
administrative remedies and the decision of the Commissioner
is ripe for review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g),
1383(c)(3). The parties have consented to the exercise of
dispositive jurisdiction by a United States Magistrate Judge
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Doc. 12).
was 54 years old on the date of the ALJ's opinion. (Tr.
at 27, 59). Her past work experiences include employment as a
dye automation operator and crew leader. (Tr. at 39-40).
Deloney claims that she became disabled on October 29, 2013,
due to reflex sympathetic dystrophy of the lower right limb and
GERD. (Tr. at 22). However, Deloney amended her alleged onset
date to April 1, 2015. (Tr. at 20, 164).
evaluating the disability of individuals over the age of
eighteen, the regulations prescribe a five-step sequential
evaluation process. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520, 416.920; see also Doughty v. Apfel, 245
F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th Cir. 2001). The first step requires a
determination of whether the claimant is “doing
substantial gainful activity.” 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). If she is, the claimant
is not disabled and the evaluation stops. Id. If she
is not, the Commissioner next considers the effect of all of
the physical and mental impairments combined. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). These
impairments must be severe and must meet the durational
requirements before a claimant will be found to be disabled.
Id. The decision depends on the medical evidence in
the record. See Hart v. Finch, 440 F.2d 1340, 1341
(5th Cir. 1971). If the claimant's impairments are not
severe, the analysis stops. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). Otherwise, the
analysis continues to step three, which is a determination of
whether the claimant's impairments meet or equal the
severity of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the
claimant's impairments fall within this category, she
will be found disabled without further consideration.
Id. If they do not, a determination of the
claimant's residual functional capacity will be made and
the analysis proceeds to the fourth step. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). Residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) is an assessment, based on all
relevant evidence, of a claimant's remaining ability to
do work despite her impairments. 20 C.F.R. §
fourth step requires a determination of whether the
claimant's impairments prevent her from returning to past
relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv),
416.920(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant can still do her past
relevant work, the claimant is not disabled and the
evaluation stops. Id. If the claimant cannot do past
relevant work, then the analysis proceeds to the fifth step.
Id. Step five requires the court to consider the
claimant's RFC, as well as the claimant's age,
education, and past work experience, in order to determine if
she can do other work. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v). If the claimant can do
other work, the claimant is not disabled. Id. The
burden is on the Commissioner to demonstrate that other jobs
exist which the claimant can perform; and, once that burden
is met, the claimant must prove her inability to perform
those jobs in order to be found disabled. Jones v.
Apfel, 190 F.3d 1224, 1228 (11th Cir. 1999).
the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found that Deloney
meets the insurability and duration requirements for a period
of disability and DIB and was insured through December 31,
2019. (Tr. at 22). She further determined that Deloney has
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the amended
alleged onset of her disability of April 1, 2015.
Id. According to the ALJ, the plaintiff has the
following impairments that are considered
“severe” based on the requirements set forth in
the regulations: reflex sympathetic dystrophy of the lower
right limb. Id. However, she found that this
impairment neither meets nor medically equals any of the
listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
1. (Tr. at 23). The ALJ did not find Deloney's
allegations of pain to be entirely credible, and she
determined that Deloney has the following residual functional
After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(b) except no climbing ladders, ropes or
scaffolds; occasionally climb ramps/stairs, balance, stoop,
kneel, crouch and crawl; avoid concentrated exposure to
temperature extremes; avoid all exposure to unprotected
heights and moving machinery.
(Tr. at 23). According to the ALJ, Deloney “is capable
of performing past relevant work as a dye automation
operator.” (Tr. at 26). The ALJ concluded her
findings by stating that Deloney “has not been under a
disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from April
1, 2015, through the date of this decision.” (Tr. at
Standard of Review
court's role in reviewing claims brought under the Social
Security Act is a narrow one. The scope of its review is
limited to determining (1) whether there is substantial
evidence in the record as a whole to support the findings of
the Commissioner, and (2) whether the correct legal standards
were applied. See Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 390, 401 (1971); Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d
1219, 1221 (11th Cir. 2002). The court approaches the factual
findings of the Commissioner with deference, but applies
close scrutiny to the legal conclusions. See Miles v.
Chater, 84 F.3d 1397, 1400 (11th Cir. 1996).
“Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla and is
such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Mitchell v.
Commissioner, Soc. Sec. Admin., 771 F.3d 780, 782 (11th
Cir. 2014). The court may not decide facts, weigh evidence,
or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner.
Miles, 84 F.3d at 1400. “The substantial
evidence standard permits administrative decision makers to
act with considerable latitude, and ‘the possibility of
drawing two inconsistent conclusions from the evidence does
not prevent an administrative agency's finding from being
supported by substantial evidence.'” Parker v.
Bowen, 793 F.2d 1177, 1181 (11th Cir. 1986) (Gibson, J.,
dissenting) (quoting Consolo v. Federal Mar.
Comm'n, 383 U.S. 607, 620 (1966)). Indeed, even if
this court finds that the evidence preponderates against the
Commissioner's decision, the court must affirm if the
decision is supported by substantial evidence.
Miles, 84 F.3d at 1400. No. decision is automatic,
however, for “despite this deferential standard [for
review of claims] it is imperative that the court scrutinize
the record in its entirety to determine the reasonableness of
the decision reached.” Bridges v. Bowen, 815
F.2d 622, 624 (11th Cir. 1987). Moreover, failure to apply
the correct legal standards is grounds for reversal. See
Bowen v. Heckler, 748 F.2d 629, 635 (11th Cir. 1984).
plaintiff argues that the ALJ's decision that she can
perform past relevant work is not supported by substantial
evidence. Specifically, the plaintiff contends that that ALJ
erroneously concluded that the plaintiff's subjective
complaints of pain were not entirely credible in
contravention of the pain standard.
Eleventh Circuit established a pain standard to direct ALJs
in evaluating claimant's subjective allegations of
disabling pain. Subjective testimony of pain and other
symptoms may establish the presence of a disabling impairment
if it is supported by medical evidence. See Foote v.
Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1561 (11th Cir. 1995). To
establish disability based upon pain and other subjective
symptoms, “[t]he pain standard requires (1) evidence of
an underlying medical condition and either (2) objective
medical evidence that confirms the severity of the alleged
pain arising from that condition or (3) that the objectively
determined medical condition is of such a severity that it
can be reasonably expected to give rise to the alleged