United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northwestern Division
N. JOHNSON, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Melissa Ann Pigg, seeks judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) of an adverse, final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner” or “Secretary”),
regarding her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB).
The court has carefully considered the record, and for the
reasons expressed herein, AFFIRMS the
AND STANDARD OF REVIEW
qualify for disability benefits and establish entitlement for
a period of disability, the 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 of a “physical or mental
impairment” which “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.
determining whether a claimant suffers a disability, the
Commissioner, through an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ),
works through a five-step sequential evaluation process.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. The burden rests upon
the claimant on the first four steps of this five-step
process; the Commissioner sustains the burden at step five,
if the evaluation proceeds that far. Jones v. Apfel,
190 F.3d 1224, 1228 (11thCir. 1999).
first step, the claimant cannot be currently engaged in
substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b).
Second, the claimant must prove the impairment is
“severe” in that it “significantly limits
[the] physical or mental ability to do basic work activities
. . . .” Id. at § 404.1520(c).
three, the evaluator must conclude the claimant is disabled
if the impairments meet or are medically equivalent to one of
the impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App.
1, §§ 1.00-114.02. Id. at §
404.1520(d). If a claimant's impairment meets the
applicable criteria at this step, that claimant's
impairments would prevent any person from performing
substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 404.1525, 416.920(a)(4)(iii). That is, a
claimant who satisfies steps one and two qualifies
automatically for disability benefits if the claimant suffers
a listed impairment. See Jones, 190 F.3d at 1228
(“If, at the third step, [the claimant] proves that
[an] impairment or combination of impairments meets or equals
a listed impairment, [the claimant] is automatically found
disabled regardless of age, education, or work
experience.”) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 416.920).
claimant's impairment or combination of impairments does
not meet or medically equal a listed impairment, the
evaluation proceeds to the fourth step where the claimant
demonstrates an incapacity to meet the physical and mental
demands of past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e).
At this step, the evaluator must determine whether the
claimant has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform the requirements of past
relevant work. See Id. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant's
impairment or combination of impairments does not prevent
performance of past relevant work, the evaluator will
determine the claimant is not disabled. See id.
claimant is successful at the preceding step, the fifth step
shifts the burden to the Commissioner to provide evidence,
considering the claimant's RFC, age, education and past
work experience, that the claimant is capable of performing
other work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1512(g). If the
claimant can perform other work, the evaluator will not find
the claimant disabled. See Id. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v); see also 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g), 416.920(g). If the claimant
cannot perform other work, the evaluator will find the
claimant disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v),
404.1520(g), 416.920(a)(4)(v), 416.920(g).
court reviews the ALJ's “‛decision with
deference to the factual findings and close scrutiny of the
legal conclusions.'” Parks ex rel. D.P. v.
Comm'r, Social Sec. Admin., 783 F.3d 847, 850
(11th Cir. 2015) (quoting Cornelius v.
Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145 (11th Cir.
1991)). The court must determine whether substantial evidence
supports the Commissioner's decision and whether the
Commissioner applied the proper legal standards. Winschel
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178
(11th Cir. 2011). Although 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)
(citations omitted), the court “may not decide the
facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute [its]
judgment” for that of the ALJ. Winschel, 631
F.3d at 1178 (citations and internal quotation marks
omitted). “Substantial evidence is more than a
scintilla and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable
person would accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. (citations omitted).
Nonetheless, substantial evidence exists even if the evidence
preponderates against the Commissioner's decision.
Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1211
(11th Cir. 2005).
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
opinion, the ALJ first determined that Pigg met the Social
Security Act's insured status requirements through
December 31, 2017. (Tr. 14). Applying the five-step
sequential process, the ALJ found at step one that Pigg had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity from her alleged
onset date of January 25, 2013, through the date of the
ALJ's opinion, May 17, 2016. (Id.). At step two,
the ALJ found that Pigg suffers the following severe
impairments: anxiety and depression. (Id.). At step
three, the ALJ concluded that Pigg's impairment or
combination of impairments did not meet or medically equal
any impairment for presumptive disability listed in 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 15-16).
the ALJ found that Pigg exhibited the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform a full range of work
at all exertional levels but with the following
non-exertional limitations: the claimant is able to
understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions and
tasks; limited to jobs involving casual interaction and
contact with coworkers and the general public; limited to
jobs with infrequent, and well explained workplace changes;
and is able to concentrate for two hours at a time sufficient
to complete an eight hour day. (Tr. 17).
four, the ALJ found that Pigg cannot perform her past
relevant work as a bookkeeper, citing testimony from a
vocational expert (VE). (Tr. 22). Nevertheless, the ALJ
proceeded to step five, finding there exists a significant
number of jobs in the national economy that ...