United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
H. ENGLAND, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Danny Monroe Clapper (“Clapper”) seeks review,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 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).
Clapper timely pursued and exhausted his administrative
remedies. This case is therefore ripe for review under 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). The undersigned has carefully
considered the record and, for the reasons stated below, the
Commissioner's decision is
Factual and Procedural History
protectively filed an application for SSI on July 5, 2011,
alleging disability beginning on January 1, 2007. (Tr. 62,
207). The Commissioner initially denied Clapper's claim,
(tr. 85-87), and Clapper requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”), (tr. 93- 95).
After a hearing on April 11, 2013 (at which Clapper amended
his onset date to October 11, 2011, (tr. 404)), the ALJ
denied Clapper's claim on June 21, 2013. (Tr. 64-81).
Clapper sought review by the Appeals Council; it granted
review, vacated the ALJ's decision, and remanded
Clapper's claim for further proceedings. (Tr.
remand, the ALJ held another hearing on March 30, 2015. (Tr.
444-73). On September 4, 2015, he again denied Clapper's
claim. (Tr. 39-61). Clapper again sought review by the
Appeals Council, but this time, on January 1, 2017, it denied
his request for review. (Tr. 3-8). On that date, the
ALJ's decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner. On March 14, 2017, Clapper initiated this
action. (Doc. 1).
was fifty-two years old on the date of the ALJ's last
decision. (Tr. 39, 207). Clapper reported he quit school
after the fifth grade and had previous work as an electrician
and electrician's helper. (Tr. 180-206, 210-11, 221-24,
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, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 1422 (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 that are supported by
substantial evidence. However, it 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
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, [he] will
automatically be found disabled if [he] suffers from a listed
impairment. If the claimant does not have a listed impairment
but cannot perform [his] 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 ALJ made the following
One, the ALJ found Clapper had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since July 5, 2011, his application date.
(Tr. 45). At Step Two, the ALJ found Clapper has the
following medically determinable impairments: history of mild
osteoarthritis, knees, and small joint effusion, left knee;
history of mild osteoarthritis and mild chondromalacia of the
right knee; generalized arthritis; lumbago; mood disorder,
not otherwise specified, with mild features of anxiety,
stable with medication compliance versus depressive disorder,
not otherwise specified; and history of substance abuse, to
wit: alcohol. (Tr. 45). However, the ALJ concluded none of
these impairments, alone or in combination, cause greater
than slight limitation in Clapper's capacity for work
activity. (Tr. 46). Accordingly, he determined the
impairments are nonsevere, (tr. 60-61), that Clapper had not
been under a disability since his application date, (tr. 61).
the court may only reverse a finding of the Commissioner if
it is not supported by substantial evidence or because
improper legal standards were applied, “[t]his does not
relieve the court of its responsibility to scrutinize the
record in its entirety to ascertain whether substantial
evidence supports each essential administrative
finding.” Walden v. Schweiker, 672 F.2d 835,
838 (11th Cir. 1982) (citing Strickland v. Harris,
615 F.2d 1103, 1106 (5th Cir. 1980)). The court, however,
“abstains from reweighing the evidence or substituting
its own judgment for that of the [Commissioner].”
Id. (citation omitted).
raises five objections to the denial of SSI: (1) the ALJ
failed to accord proper weight to the opinion of Dr. Glenn
Archibald, Clapper's treating physician; (2) the ALJ
failed to accord proper weight to the opinion of Dr. Dana
Davis, and instead substituted his opinion for hers; (3)
Clapper meets Listing 12.04 and/or Listing 12.05C; (4) the
finding Clapper can perform his past work is not supported by
substantial evidence; and (5) the ALJ is biased against
claimants in general, which tainted his decision. (Doc. 12 at
2). Upon review of the parties' briefing and the record,
none of these grounds supports reversal. The undersigned has
combined some of these arguments for convenience, but all are
The ALJ Properly ...