United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Jasper Division
MICHAEL PUTNAM U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
plaintiff, Ellis Todd Wade, appeals from the decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”) denying his application for a
period of disability, Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) and Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”). Wade timely pursued and exhausted his
administrative remedies, and the decision of the Commissioner
is ripe for review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g),
1383(c)(3). The parties have consented to the exercise of
dispositive jurisdiction by a United States Magistrate Judge
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Doc. 15).
was 47 years old on the date of the ALJ's opinion. (Tr.
at 18, 145). He graduated from high school in 1989. (Tr. at
180). He previously worked as a supervisor at Houston Wood
Products, Inc., from 1989 until 2013, building furniture and
operating heavy machinery. (Tr. at 159, 180). He also was
self-employed as a livestock rancher in 2014. (Tr. at 49,
159). Wade claims that he became disabled on May 3, 2013, due
to bilateral hip replacements, high blood pressure, high
cholesterol, “numbness in feet and legs, ”
“chronic pain in both shoulders, ” “severe
pain in legs and hips, ” and “border line
diab[etes].” (Tr. at 179). At the ALJ's hearing,
however, he amended his disability onset date to December 29,
2014. (Tr. at 10, 30).
evaluating the disability of individuals over the age of
eighteen, the regulations prescribe a five-step sequential
evaluation process. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520, 416.920; see also Doughty v. Apfel, 245
F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th Cir. 2001). The first step requires a
determination of whether the claimant is “doing
substantial gainful activity.” 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). If he is, the claimant
is not disabled and the evaluation stops. Id. If he
is not, the Commissioner next considers the effect of all of
the physical and mental impairments combined. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). These
impairments must be severe and must meet the durational
requirements before a claimant will be found to be disabled.
Id. The decision depends on the medical evidence in
the record. See Hart v. Finch, 440 F.2d 1340, 1341
(5th Cir. 1971). If the claimant's impairments are not
severe, the analysis stops. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). Otherwise, the
analysis continues to step three, which is a determination of
whether the claimant's impairments meet or equal the
severity of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the
claimant's impairments fall within this category, he will
be found disabled without further consideration. Id.
If they do not, a determination of the claimant's
residual functional capacity will be made and the analysis
proceeds to the fourth step. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(e), 416.920(e). Residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) is an assessment, based on all relevant
evidence, of a claimant's remaining ability to do work
despite his impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 404.945(a)(1).
fourth step requires a determination of whether the
claimant's impairments prevent him from returning to past
relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv),
416.920(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant can still do his past
relevant work, the claimant is not disabled and the
evaluation stops. Id. If the claimant cannot do past
relevant work, then the analysis proceeds to the fifth step.
Id. Step five requires the court to consider the
claimant's RFC, as well as the claimant's age,
education, and past work experience, in order to determine if
he can do other work. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v). If the claimant can do
other work, the claimant is not disabled. Id. The
burden is on the Commissioner to demonstrate that other jobs
exist which the claimant can perform; and, once that burden
is met, the claimant must prove his or her inability to
perform those jobs in order to be found disabled. Jones
v. Apfel, 190 F.3d 1224, 1228 (11th Cir. 1999).
the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found that Wade
meets the nondisability requirements for a period of
disability and DIB and was insured through December 31, 2019.
(Tr. at 12). He further determined that Wade has not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since the amended alleged
onset of his disability on December 29, 2014. Id.
According to the ALJ, the plaintiff has the following
impairments that are considered “severe” based on
the requirements set forth in the regulations: arthritis with
a history of bilateral hip arthroplasty, obesity,
hypertension, and hyperlipidemia. Id. However, he
found that these impairments neither meet nor medically equal
any of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, Appendix 1. (Tr. at 13). The ALJ did not find Wade's
allegations related to the limiting effects of his
impairments to be entirely credible (tr. at 14), and he
determined that he has the following residual functional
After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except he can lift 20 pounds
occasionally. He can stand and/or walk six hours and sit six
hours with a sit/stand option on the half hour for a few
minutes while continuing to work. He cannot push or pull with
the bilateral lower extremities. He occasionally can climb
stairs and ramps; balance, kneel, crawl, stoop, and crouch.
He cannot work at unprotected heights or climbing ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds.
(Tr. at 13).
to the ALJ, Wade is unable to perform any of his past
relevant work, he is a “younger individual, ” and
he has “at least a high school education, ” as
those terms are defined by the regulations. (Tr. at 16-17).
He determined that “[t]ransferability of job skills is
not material to the determination of disability because using
the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a
finding that the claimant is ‘not disabled,'
whether or not he has transferable job skills.” (Tr. at
17). The ALJ found that “jobs exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that he can perform, ”
specifically as a furniture rental consultant, a sales
attendant, and a bottling line attendant. Id. The
ALJ concluded his findings by stating that Plaintiff
“has not been under a disability, as defined in the
Social Security Act, from December 29, 2014, through the date
of this decision.” (Tr. at 18).
Standard of Review
court's role in reviewing claims brought under the Social
Security Act is a narrow one. The scope of its review is
limited to determining (1) whether there is substantial
evidence in the record as a whole to support the findings of
the Commissioner, and (2) whether the correct legal standards
were applied. See Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 390, 401 (1971); Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d
1219, 1221 (11th Cir. 2002). The court approaches the factual
findings of the Commissioner with deference, but applies
close scrutiny to the legal conclusions. See Miles v.
Chater, 84 F.3d 1397, 1400 (11th Cir. 1996).
“Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla and is
such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Mitchell v.
Commissioner, Soc. Sec. Admin., 771 F.3d 780, 782 (11th
Cir. 2014). The court may not decide facts, weigh evidence,
or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner.
Miles, 84 F.3d at 1400. “The substantial
evidence standard permits administrative decision makers to
act with considerable latitude, and ‘the possibility of
drawing two inconsistent conclusions from the evidence does
not prevent an administrative agency's finding from being
supported by substantial evidence.'” Parker v.
Bowen, 793 F.2d 1177, 1181 (11th Cir. 1986) (Gibson, J.,
dissenting) (quoting Consolo v. Federal Mar.
Comm'n, 383 U.S. 607, 620 (1966)). Indeed, even if
this court finds that the evidence preponderates against the
Commissioner's decision, the Court must affirm if the
decision is supported by substantial evidence.
Miles, 84 F.3d at 1400. No. decision is automatic,
however, for “despite this deferential standard [for
review of claims] it is imperative that the court scrutinize
the record in its entirety to determine the reasonableness of
the decision reached.” Bridges v.
815 F.2d 622, 624 (11th Cir. 1987). Moreover, failure to
apply the correct legal standards is grounds for reversal.
See Bowen v. Heckler, 748 F.2d 629, 635 (11th Cir.