United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
K. KALLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Lowman brings this action pursuant to Section 405(g) of the
Social Security Act (“the Act”), 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), seeking review of the final adverse decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”). The court finds that the Administrative
Law Judge's (“ALJ”) and the Appeals
Council's decisions-which have become the decision of the
Commissioner-are supported by substantial evidence.
Therefore, the court AFFIRMS the decision
filed an application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits, alleging a disability
beginning on September 5, 2011. R. 119-20, 171-72. Lowman was
last insured for disability benefits on December 31, 2012. R.
20, 119. After the SSA denied her application, Lowman
requested a hearing before an ALJ, who subsequently denied
Lowman's claim. R. 20-44, 72-117, 126-30. This became the
final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council
refused to grant review. R. 1-7. Lowman then filed this
action pursuant to § 405(g) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). Doc. 1.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
only issues before this court are whether the record contains
substantial evidence to sustain the ALJ's decision,
see 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Walden v.
Schweiker, 672 F.2d 835, 838 (11th Cir. 1982), and
whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards, see
Lamb v. Bowen, 847 F.2d 698, 701 (11th Cir. 1988);
Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir.
1986). Title 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)
mandate that the Commissioner's “factual findings
are conclusive if supported by ‘substantial
evidence.'” Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d
1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990). The district court may not
reconsider the facts, reevaluate the evidence, or substitute
its judgment for that of the Commissioner; instead, it must
review the final decision as a whole and determine if the
decision is “reasonable and supported by substantial
evidence.” See id. (citing Bloodsworth v.
Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983)).
evidence falls somewhere between a scintilla and a
preponderance of evidence; “[i]t is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Martin, 849 F.2d at
1529 (quoting Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1239) (other
citations omitted). If supported by substantial evidence, the
court must affirm the Commissioner's factual findings
even if the preponderance of the evidence is against the
Commissioner's findings. See Martin, 894 F.2d at
1529. While the court acknowledges that judicial review of
the ALJ's findings is limited in scope, it notes that the
review “does not yield automatic affirmance.”
Lamb, 847 F.2d at 701.
STATUTORY AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must show
“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 twelve months.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(A); 42 U.S.C. § 416(i)(I)(A). A
physical or mental impairment is “an impairment that
results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological
abnormalities which are demonstrated by medically acceptable
clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(3). The disability must have begun on or
before the date that the individual was last insured for
disability benefits. 42 U.S.C. § 423 (a)(1)(A), (c)(1).
of disability under the Act requires a five step analysis. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)-(f). Specifically, the Commissioner
must determine in sequence:
(1) whether the claimant is currently unemployed;
(2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment;
(3) whether the impairment meets or equals one listed by the
(4) whether the claimant is unable to perform his or her past
(5) whether the claimant is unable to perform any work in the
McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir.
1986). “An affirmative answer to any of the above
questions leads either to the next question, or, on steps
three and five, to a finding of disability. A negative answer
to any question, other than step three, leads to a
determination of ‘not disabled.'”
Id. at 1030 (citing 20 C.F.R.§ 416.920(a)-(f)).
“Once a finding is made that a claimant cannot return
to prior work the burden shifts to the Secretary to show
other work the claimant can do.” Foote v.
Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1559 (11th Cir. 1995) (citation
THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION
performing the five step analysis, the ALJ found that Lowman
had not engaged in substantial gainful activity from
September 5, 2011 through December 31, 2012, and therefore
met step one. R. 25. Next, the ALJ found that Lowman
satisfied step two because she suffered from the severe
impairments of left temporal lobe contusion with closed head
trauma, cervicalgia with bulging C5-6 disc, brachial neuritis
or radiculitis, headaches, and arthropathy. R. 25. The ALJ
then proceeded to the next step and found that Lowman did not
satisfy Step Three because her impairments did not meet or
equal any listing. R. 30. Although the ALJ answered step
three in the negative, consistent with the law, see
McDaniel, 800 F.2d at 1030, the ALJ proceeded to step
four, and determined that Lowman has the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work,
except she was capable of performing non-complex job tasks
requiring simple one- or two-step procedures, could have
occasional contact with the general public and with
co-workers, and could engage in frequent, but not continuous,
overhead reaching and lifting. R. 33. In light of
Lowman's RFC, the ALJ determined that Lowman was not able
to perform any of her past relevant work. R. 38. Lastly, in
step five, the ALJ considered Lowman's age, education,
work experience, and RFC, and determined that there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that Lowman can perform. R. 39, 115-16. Therefore, the ALJ
found that Lowman was not disabled under the Act. R. 40.
contends that the ALJ erred by improperly weighing the
opinions of Dr. Ochuko Odjegba and Dr. Jon Rogers; failing to
consider all of Lowman's severe impairments; mistakenly
finding that Lowman's disabilities did not meet or equal
any listing; and failing to state adequate ...