United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northwestern Division
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c), plaintiff Alice
Kinsley seeks judicial review of a final adverse decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security. The Commissioner denied
Ms. Kinsley's claims for disability insurance benefits
and for supplemental security income. After careful review,
the Court reverses the Commissioner's decision.
Kinsley applied for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income on June 9, 2015. (Doc. 7-3, p.
14; Doc. 7-5, pp. 30-31). Ms. Kinsley alleges that her
disability began November 20, 2014. (Doc. 7-3, p. 14; Doc.
7-7, pp. 2-9). The Commissioner initially denied Ms.
Kinsley's claims on September 23, 2015, and Ms. Kinsley
requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
(Doc. 7-3, p. 14; Doc. 7-6, pp. 8-14). The ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision on June 15, 2016. (Doc. 7-3, pp. 11-23).
On May 22, 2017, the Appeals Council declined Ms.
Kinsley's request for review (Doc. 7-3, p. 2), making the
Commissioner's decision final and a proper candidate for
this Court's judicial review. See 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
scope of review in this matter is limited. “When, as in
this case, the ALJ denies benefits and the Appeals Council
denies review, ” the Court “review[s] the
ALJ's ‘factual findings with deference' and
[his] ‘legal conclusions with close
scrutiny.'” Riggs v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 522 Fed.Appx. 509, 510-11 (11th Cir. 2013)
(quoting Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th
Court must determine whether there is substantial evidence in
the record to support the ALJ's factual findings.
“Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla and is
such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Crawford v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir.
2004). In evaluating the administrative record, the Court may
not “decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence,
” or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ.
Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 631 F.3d
1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011) (internal quotations and citation
omitted). If substantial evidence supports the ALJ's
factual findings, then the Court “must affirm even if
the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's
findings.” Costigan v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec.
Admin., 603 Fed.Appx. 783, 786 (11th Cir. 2015) (citing
Crawford, 363 F.3d at 1158).
respect to the ALJ's legal conclusions, the Court must
determine whether the ALJ applied the correct legal
standards. If the Court finds an error in the ALJ's
application of the law, or if the Court finds that the ALJ
failed to provide sufficient reasoning to demonstrate that
the ALJ conducted a proper legal analysis, then the Court
must reverse the ALJ's decision. Cornelius v.
Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991).
SUMMARY OF THE ALJ'S DECISION
determine whether a claimant has proven that she is disabled,
an ALJ follows a five-step sequential evaluation process. The
(1) whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial
gainful activity; (2) whether the claimant has a severe
impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the
impairment meets or equals the severity of the specified
impairments in the Listing of Impairments; (4) based on a
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) assessment,
whether the claimant can perform any of his or her past
relevant work despite the impairment; and (5) whether there
are significant numbers of jobs in the national economy that
the claimant can perform given the claimant's RFC, age,
education, and work experience.
Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178.
case, the ALJ found that Ms. Kinsley has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since November 20, 2014, the
alleged onset date. (Doc. 7-3, p. 16). The ALJ determined
that Ms. Kinsley suffers from the severe impairment of
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine. (Doc. 7-3, p.
16). The ALJ also determined that Ms. Kinsley has the
following non-severe impairments: Crohn's disease, COPD,
and anxiety. (Doc. 7-3, pp. 16-17). Based on a review of the
medical evidence, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Kinsley does not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets
or medically equals the severity of any of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
(Doc. 7-3, p. 18).
light of Ms. Kinsley's impairments, the ALJ evaluated Ms.
Kinsley's residual functional capacity. The ALJ
determined that Ms. Kinsley has the RFC to perform:
less than the full range of light work as defined in 20 CFR
404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except she is limited to
occasional balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling
and climbing ramps and stairs. She is limited to occupations
which do not require climbing ropes, ladders or scaffolds.
She must be afforded the option to sit and stand during the
workday, one to two minutes every hour or so at the
workstation. She should avoid exposure to dangerous, moving,
unguarded machinery and exposure to unprotected heights.
(Doc. 7-3, p. 19).
on this RFC, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Kinsley is able to
perform her past relevant work as a cashier. (Doc. 7-3, p.
23). Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Ms. Kinsley has not
been under a disability ...