United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
PRESTON T. MOORER, II, Plaintiff,
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
F. BIVINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Preston T. Moorer, II (hereinafter “Plaintiff”),
seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner
of Social Security denying his claim for a period of
disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental
security income under Titles II and XVI of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq.,
and 1381, et seq. On April 11, 2018, the parties
consented to have the undersigned conduct any and all
proceedings in this case. (Doc. 17). Thus, the action was
referred to the undersigned to conduct all proceedings and
order the entry of judgment in accordance with 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(c) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73. Upon
careful consideration of the administrative record and the
memoranda of the parties, it is hereby
ORDERED that the decision of the
Commissioner be AFFIRMED.
filed his application for benefits on August 21, 2014,
alleging disability beginning March 16, 2014, based on
“severe right ankle problems, plates and screws in
right ankle, and fracture[d] neck.” (Doc. 11 at 147,
154, 178, 182). Plaintiff's application was denied and
upon timely request, he was granted an administrative hearing
before Administrative Law Judge L. Dawn Pischek (hereinafter
“ALJ”) on February 16, 2016. (Id. at
40). Plaintiff attended the hearing with his counsel and
provided testimony related to his claims. (Id.). A
vocational expert (“VE”) also appeared at the
hearing and provided testimony. (Id. at 60). On May
26, 2016, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding that
Plaintiff is not disabled. (Id. at 24). The Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on April
18, 2017. (Id. at 5). Therefore, the ALJ's
decision dated May 26, 2016, became the final decision of the
exhausted his administrative remedies, Plaintiff timely filed
the present civil action. (Doc. 1). Oral argument was
conducted on May 29, 2018. (Doc. 22). This case is now ripe
for judicial review and is properly before this Court
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).
Issue on Appeal
the ALJ erred in assessing Plaintiff's complex regional
pain syndrome (“CRPS”)?
was born on February 23, 1979, and was thirty-seven years of
age at the time of his administrative hearing on February 16,
2016. (Doc. 11 at 40, 178). Plaintiff graduated from high
school and attended junior college for one year.
(Id. at 46, 374).
last worked as a machine operator for a lumber company from
2008 to 2009, and for a paper company from 2012 to 2014.
(Id. at 59, 191-94). Plaintiff testified that he has
not worked since he was involved in a motor vehicle accident
in March of 2014. According to Plaintiff, he broke his ankle
in the accident and required multiple surgeries.
(Id. at 46, 374). Plaintiff testified that he now
walks with a boot when he goes out, but he does not wear the
boot around the house. (Id. at 47). Plaintiff also
testified that he can no longer work due to pain in his
ankle, that his treating physician no longer gives him pain
medication, and that sometimes, he takes over-the-counter
pain medication. (Id. at 40-56). Plaintiff further
testified that he can walk for about forty minutes before he
has to sit down. (Id. at 55). According to
Plaintiff, once he sits down, his pain is about a two or
three on a ten-point pain scale. (Id. at 54).
Plaintiff further testified that pain medication and
elevating his leg helps the pain. (Id. at 53, 58).
Standard of Review
reviewing claims brought under the Act, this Court's role
is a limited one. The Court's review is limited to
determining 1) whether the decision of the Secretary is
supported by substantial evidence and 2) whether the correct
legal standards were applied.Martin v. Sullivan, 894
F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990). A court may not decide the
facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute its judgment
for that of the Commissioner. Sewell v. Bowen, 792
F.2d 1065, 1067 (11th Cir. 1986). The Commissioner's
findings of fact must be affirmed if they are based upon
substantial evidence. Brown v. Sullivan, 921 F.2d
1233, 1235 (11th Cir. 1991); Bloodsworth v. Heckler,
703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983) (holding substantial
evidence is defined as “more than a scintilla, but less
than a preponderance” and consists of “such
relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.”). In determining
whether substantial evidence exists, a court must view the
record as a whole, taking into account evidence favorable, as
well as unfavorable, to the Commissioner's decision.
Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir.
1986); Short v. Apfel, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10163,
*4 (S.D. Ala. June 14, 1999).
Statutory and Regulatory Framework
individual who applies for Social Security disability
benefits must prove his or her disability. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1512, 416.912. Disability is defined as 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); see also 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1505(a), 416.905(a). The Social Security
regulations provide a five-step sequential evaluation process
for determining if a claimant has proven his disability. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.
claimant must first prove that he or she has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity. The second step requires the
claimant to prove that he or she has a severe impairment or
combination of impairments. If, at the third step, the
claimant proves that the impairment or combination of
impairments meets or equals a listed impairment, then the
claimant is automatically found disabled regardless of age,
education, or work experience. If the claimant cannot prevail
at the third step, he or she must proceed to the fourth step
where the claimant must prove an inability to perform their
past relevant work. Jones v. Bowen, 810 F.2d 1001,
1005 (11th Cir. 1986). At the fourth step, the ALJ must make
an assessment of the claimant's RFC. See Phillips v.
Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1238 (11th Cir. 2004). The RFC
is an assessment, based on all relevant medical and other
evidence, of a claimant's remaining ability to work
despite his impairment. See Lewis v. Callahan, 125
F.3d 1436, 1440 (llth Cir. 1997).
claimant meets his or her burden at the fourth step, it then
becomes the Commissioner's burden to prove at the fifth
step that the claimant is capable of engaging in another kind
of substantial gainful employment which exists in significant
numbers in the national economy, given the claimant's
residual functional capacity, age, education, and work
history. Sryock v. Heckler, 764 F.2d 834, 836 (11th
Cir. 1985). If the Commissioner can demonstrate that there
are such jobs the claimant can perform, the claimant must
prove inability to perform those jobs in order to be found
disabled. Jones v. Apfel, 190 F.3d 1224, 1228 (11th
Cir. 1999). See also Hale v. Bowen, 831 F.2d 1007,
1011 (11th Cir. 1987) (citing Francis v. Heckler,
749 F.2d 1562, 1564 (11th Cir. 1985)).