United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
H. ENGLAND, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Nelson Harris (“Harris”) seeks review, pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), § 205(g) of the Social
Security Act, of a final decision of the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”),
denying his application for supplemental security income
(“SSI”). (Doc. 1). Harris timely pursued and
exhausted his administrative remedies. This case is therefore
ripe for review under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g),
1383(c)(3). The undersigned has carefully considered the
record and, for the reasons stated below, the
Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.
Factual and Procedural History
21, 2014, Harris protectively filed an application for SSI,
alleging disability beginning February 26, 2014. (Tr. 20,
148-154). The claim was denied initially on August 21, 2014.
(Id.). Thereafter, on September 9, 2014, Harris
filed a written request for a hearing. (Tr. 20, 97-99).
Harris appeared before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) and testified at a hearing held on May
19, 2016, in Birmingham, Alabama. (Tr. 20, 39- 77). On August
19, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding Harris had not
been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security
Act, since July 21, 2014, the date the application was filed.
(Tr. 28). Harris sought review by the Appeals Council, but it
declined his request on July 8, 2017. (Tr. 1-6). On that
date, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner. On July 28, 2017, Harris initiated this action.
(See doc. 1).
was forty-five years old on the date he filed his
application. (Tr. 27). He has at least a high school
education and is able to communicate in English. (Tr. 27).
Harries alleges he cannot work because of his back problems.
Standard of Review
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). Substantial evidence is
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Id. It is “more than a scintilla, but less
than a preponderance.” Id.
Court must uphold factual findings supported by substantial
evidence. “Substantial evidence may even exist contrary
to the findings of the ALJ, and [the reviewing court] may
have taken a different view of it as a factfinder. Yet, if
there is substantially supportive evidence, the findings
cannot be overturned.” Barron v. Sullivan, 924
F.2d 227, 230 (11th Cir. 1991). However, the Court reviews
the ALJ's legal conclusions 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 the proper
legal analysis has been conducted, it must reverse the
ALJ's decision. 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 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.
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 the 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). “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
other job.” Pope, 998 F.2d at 477; accord
Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1559 (11th Cir. 1995).
The Commissioner must further show such work exists in the
national economy in significant numbers. Id.
Findings of the Administrative Law Judge
consideration of the entire record and application of the
sequential evaluation process, the ...