United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
ROBINSON L. TENNEY, Plaintiff,
NANCY BERRYHILL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
SCOTT COOGLER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiff, Robinson L. Tenney, appeals from the decision of
the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”) denying his applications for a
Period of Disability and Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”). Mr. Tenney 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).
Tenney was fifty-three years old at the time of the
Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ's”)
decision. (Tr. at 40.) He has a graduate equivalent degree
(“GED”). (Tr. at 59.) His past work experiences
include employment as a department store manager, an office
manager, and a security guard. (Tr. at 25.) Mr. Tenney claims
that he became disabled on September 18, 2009. (Tr. at 27.)
He claims he is disabled due to degenerative disc disease and
depression. (Tr. at 24.)
Social Security Administration has established a five-step
sequential evaluation process for determining whether an
individual is disabled and thus eligible for DIB or SSI.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920;
see also Doughty v. Apfel, 245 F.3d 1274, 1278 (11th
Cir. 2001). The evaluator will follow the steps in order
until making a finding of either disabled or not disabled; if
no finding is made, the analysis will proceed to the next
step. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4),
416.920(a)(4). The first step requires the evaluator to
determine whether the plaintiff is engaged in substantial
gainful activity (“SGA”). See Id.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). If the
plaintiff is not engaged in SGA, the evaluator moves on to
the next step.
second step requires the evaluator to consider the combined
severity of the plaintiff's medically determinable
physical and mental impairments. See Id.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). An
individual impairment or combination of impairments that is
not classified as “severe” and does not satisfy
the durational requirements set forth in 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1509 and 416.909 will result in a finding of
not disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). The decision depends
on the medical evidence contained in the record. See Hart
v. Finch, 440 F.2d 1340, 1341 (5th Cir. 1971)
(concluding that “substantial medical evidence in the
record” adequately supported the finding that plaintiff
was not disabled).
the third step requires the evaluator to consider whether the
plaintiff's impairment or combination of impairments
meets or is medically equal to the criteria of an impairment
listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii),
416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the criteria of a listed impairment
and the durational requirements set forth in 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1509 and 416.909 are satisfied, the
evaluator will make a finding of disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii).
plaintiff's impairment or combination of impairments does
not meet or medically equal a listed impairment, the
evaluator must determine the plaintiff's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) before proceeding to
the fourth step. See Id. §§ 404.1520(e),
416.920(e). The fourth step requires the evaluator to
determine whether the plaintiff has the RFC to perform the
requirements of his past relevant work. See Id.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If the
plaintiff's impairment or combination of impairments does
not prevent him from performing his past relevant work, the
evaluator will make a finding of not disabled. See
fifth and final step requires the evaluator to consider the
plaintiff's RFC, age, education, and work experience in
order to determine whether the plaintiff can make an
adjustment to other work. See Id. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v). If the plaintiff can
perform other work, the evaluator will find him not disabled.
Id.; see also 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(g), 416.920(g). If the plaintiff cannot perform
other work, the evaluator will find him disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), 404.1520(g),
the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found that Mr.
Tenney meets the nondisability requirements for a period of
disability and DIB and was insured through December 31, 2013.
(Tr. at 16.) He further determined that Mr. Tenney has not
engaged in SGA from the alleged onset of his disability
through his date last insured. (Tr. at 19.) According to the
ALJ, Plaintiff's impairments of depression, polysubstance
abuse, degenerative disc disease, and carpal tunnel syndrome
are considered “severe” based on the requirements
set forth in the regulations. (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 20.) The ALJ did not find Mr.
Tenney's allegations to be totally credible, and he
determined that he has the following RFC: to perform light
work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), which allows
occasional stooping and crouching, no driving, and no
unprotected heights; he should be restricted to simple,
repetitive, non-complex tasks; and he should have only casual
contact with the general public. (Tr. at 22.)
to the ALJ, Mr. Tenney is unable to perform any of his past
relevant work. (Tr. at 25.) Through the dated last insured,
considering his age, education, work experience, and RFC, the
ALJ found that there were jobs that existed in significant
numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform,
such as cashier II, production assembler, and parking lot
attendant. (Tr. at 27.) The ALJ concluded his findings by
stating that Plaintiff “was not under a
‘disability,' as defined in the Social Security
Act, from September 18, 2009, the alleged onset date, through
December 31, 2013, the date last insured.”
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 Stone v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
544 Fed.Appx. 839, 841 (11th Cir. 2013) (citing Crawford
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th
Cir. 2004)). This Court gives deference to the factual
findings of the Commissioner, provided those findings are
supported by substantial evidence, but applies close scrutiny
to the legal conclusions. See Miles v. Chater, 84
F.3d 1397, 1400 (11th Cir. 1996).
this Court may not decide facts, weigh evidence, or
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner.
Dyer v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir.
2005) (quoting Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232,
1240 n.8 (11th Cir. 2004)). “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. Fed. Mar.
Comm'n, 383 U.S. 607, 620 (1966)). Indeed, even if
this Court finds that the proof preponderates ...