United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Jasper Division
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Patricia Lynn Aldridge (“Ms. Aldridge”) brings
this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Ms. Aldridge seeks
a review of a final adverse decision of the Commissioner of
the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”), who denied her application for
social security benefits. Ms. Aldridge exhausted the
administrative remedies available before the Commissioner.
This case is now ripe for judicial review under section
205(g) of the Social Security Act (the "Act"), 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
Court carefully reviewed the record in this case and
AFFIRMS the ALJ's decision.
alleged onset date is April 20, 2014. (Tr. 10). Ms. Aldridge
suffers from numerous severe impairments, but the ALJ found
that none rendered her disabled. (Id. at 12, 20).
Ms. Aldridge filed an application for DIB and SSI on August
11, 2014. (Id. at 10). The Social Security
Administration denied that application on October 28, 2014.
(Id.). Administrative Law Judge Cynthia G. Weaver
held a hearing on September 8, 2015. (Id. at 10).
The ALJ issued her decision on October 15, 2015, which was
unfavorable to Ms. Aldridge. (Id. at 21). In that
opinion, the ALJ found that Ms. Aldridge did not meet the
disability standard at Steps Three and Five. (Id. at
13, 20). Ms. Aldridge requested the Appeals Council review
the claim. (Id. at 1-3). The Appeals Council
Aldridge filed her Complaint in the Northern District of
Alabama on March 20, 2017. (Doc. 1). She submitted her brief
on November 16, 2017, and the Commissioner responded on
January 17, 2018. (Docs. 13, 16). Ms. Aldridge never replied
to the Commissioner. (See CM/ECF).
court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
narrowly circumscribed. The function of this court is to
determine whether the decision of the Commissioner is
supported by substantial evidence and whether proper legal
standards were applied. Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 390 (1971); Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d
1219, 1221 (11th Cir. 2002). This 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). This court will determine that
the ALJ's opinion is supported by substantial evidence if
it finds “such relevant evidence as a reasonable person
would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Id. Substantial evidence is “more than a
scintilla, but less than a preponderance.” Id.
Factual findings that are supported by substantial evidence
must be upheld by the court.
ALJ's legal conclusions, however, are reviewed 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, the ALJ's
decision must be reversed. Cornelius v. Sullivan,
936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991).
Statutory and Regulatory Framework
qualify for disability benefits and establish his or her
entitlement for a period of disability, a claimant must be
disabled as defined by the Social Security Act and the
Regulations promulgated thereunder. The Regulations define
“disabled” as “the inability to do 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
twelve (12) months.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a). To
establish an entitlement to disability benefits, a claimant
must provide evidence about a “physical or mental
impairment” that “must result from anatomical,
physiological, or psychological abnormalities which can be
shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory
diagnostic techniques.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1508.
Regulations provide a five-step process for determining
whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(i-v). The Commissioner must determine in
(1) whether the claimant is currently employed;
(2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment;
(3) whether the claimant's impairment meets or equals an
impairment listed by the [Commissioner];
(4) whether the claimant can perform his or her past work;
(5) whether the claimant is capable of performing any work in
the national economy.
Pope v. Shalala, 998 F.2d 473, 477 (7th Cir. 1993)
(citing to formerly applicable C.F.R. section), overruled
on other grounds by Johnson v. Apfel, 189 F.3d 561,
562-63 (7th Cir. 1999); accord McDaniel v. Bowen,
800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir. 1986). The sequential analysis
goes as follows:
Once the claimant has satisfied steps One and Two, she will
automatically be found disabled if she suffers from a listed
impairment. If the claimant does not have a listed impairment
but cannot perform her work, the burden shifts to the
[Commissioner] to show that the claimant can perform some
Pope, 998 F.2d at 477; accord Foote v.
Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1559 (11th Cir. 1995).
Commissioner must further show that such work exists in the
national economy in significant numbers. Id.
Finding of the Administrative Law Judge After
considering the record, the ALJ made the following findings:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through the date of this decision.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since April 20, 2014, the alleged onset date (20 CFR
404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
degenerative disc disease, obesity, an anxiety disorder, a
depressive disorder, and a bipolar disorder ...