United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
G. CORNELIUS, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
plaintiff, Billie Drummonds, appeals from the decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the
“Commissioner”) denying his applications for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). Drummonds
timely pursued and exhausted his administrative remedies, and
the Commissioner's decision is ripe for review pursuant
to 42 U.S.C §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). For the
reasons discussed below, the Commissioner's decision is
due to be affirmed.
has a high school degree and completed three years of
college. (Tr. at 54). She has previously worked as an
accountant, a controller, and a cashier. (Id. at
54-57). In her applications for DIB and SSI, Drummonds
alleged she became disabled on August 20, 2013 (id.
at 282, 288), as a result of spondylosis and a pinched nerve
in her lumbar spine (id. at 345, 374). After her
claims were denied, Drummonds requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (Id.
at 181). Following a hearing (id. at 50-72), the ALJ
denied Drummonds' claims. (Id. at 129-46). The
Appeals Council remanded to the ALJ for further consideration
of Drummonds' residual functional capacity. (Id.
held a new hearing (id. at 73-99), following which
he again denied Drummonds' claims (id. at
17-42). Drummonds was forty-seven years old when the ALJ
issued his second decision. (Id. at 42, 282). After
the Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's second
decision (id. at 1-3), that decision became the
final decision of the Commissioner, see Frye v.
Massanari, 209 F.Supp.2d 1246, 1251 (N.D. Ala. 2001)
(citing Falge v. Apfel, 150 F.3d 1320, 1322 (11th
Cir. 1998)). Thereafter, Drummonds initiated this action.
Statutory and Regulatory Framework
establish her eligibility 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. §§ 416(i)(1)(A), 423(d)(1)(A); see also
Id. at § 1382c(a)(3)(A); 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1505(a), 416.905(a). Furthermore, a DIB claimant must
show she was disabled between her alleged initial onset date
and her date last insured. Mason v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 430 Fed.Appx. 830, 831 (11th Cir. 2011) (citing
Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1209, 1211 (11th Cir.
2005); Demandre v. Califano, 591 F.2d 1088, 1090
(5th Cir. 1979)). The Social Security Administration employs
a five-step sequential analysis to determine an
individual's eligibility for disability benefits. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4).
the Commissioner must determine whether the claimant is
engaged in “substantial gainful activity.”
Id. at §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i),
416.920(a)(4)(i). “Under the first step, the claimant
has the burden to show that [she] is not currently engaged in
substantial gainful activity.” Reynolds-Buckley v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 457 Fed.Appx. 862, 863 (11th
Cir. 2012). If the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful
activity, the Commissioner will find the claimant is not
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i) and (b),
416.920(a)(4)(i) and (b). At the first step, the ALJ
determined Drummonds met the Social Security
Administration's insured status requirements through
December 31, 2018, and has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since her alleged onset date of August 20, 2013.
(Tr. at 21).
claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful activity, the
Commissioner must next determine whether the claimant suffers
from a severe physical or mental impairment or combination of
impairments that has lasted or is expected to last for a
continuous period of at least twelve months. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). An
impairment “must result from anatomical, physiological,
or psychological abnormalities which can be shown by
medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic
techniques.” Furthermore, it “must be established
by medical evidence consisting of signs, symptoms, and
laboratory findings, not only by [the claimant's]
statement of symptoms.” Id. at §§
404.908, 416.908; see also 42 U.S.C. §§
423(d)(3), 1382c(a)(3)(D). An impairment is severe if it
“significantly limits [the claimant's] physical or
mental ability to do basic work activities . . . .” 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c).“[A]n
impairment can be considered as not severe only if it is a
slight abnormality which has such a minimal effect on the
individual that it would not be expected to interfere with
the individual's ability to work, irrespective of age,
education, or work experience.” Brady v.
Heckler, 724 F.2d 914, 920 (11th Cir. 1984); see
also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1521(a), 416.921(a). A
claimant may be found disabled based on a combination of
impairments, even though none of the individual impairments
alone is disabling. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1523, 416.923.
The claimant bears the burden of providing medical evidence
demonstrating an impairment and its severity. Id. at
§§ 404.1512(a) and (c), 416.912(a) and (c). If the
claimant does not have a severe impairment or combination of
impairments, the Commissioner will find the claimant is not
disabled. Id. at §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii) and
(c), 416.920(a)(4)(ii) and (c). At the second step, the ALJ
determined Drummonds has the following severe impairments:
multilevel spondylosis of the cervical and lumbar spine,
morbid obesity, and sciatica. (Tr. at 21).
claimant has a severe impairment or combination of
impairments, the Commissioner must then determine whether the
impairment meets or equals one of the “Listings”
found 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); see
also Id. at §§ 404.1525-26, 416.925-26. The
claimant bears the burden of proving her impairment meets or
equals one of the Listings. Reynolds-Buckley, 457
Fed.Appx. at 863. If the claimant's impairment meets or
equals one of the Listings, the Commissioner will find the
claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iii) and (d), 416.920(a)(4)(iii) and (d). At
the third step, the ALJ determined Drummonds does not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals the severity of one of the Listings. (Tr. at
claimant's impairment does not meet or equal one of the
Listings, the Commissioner must determine the claimant's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) before
proceeding to the fourth step. Id. at §§
404.1520(e), 416.920(e); see also Id. at
§§ 404.1545, 416.945. A claimant's RFC is the
most she can do despite her impairments. See Id.
§§ 404.1545(a)(1), 416.945(a)(1). At the fourth
step, the Commissioner will compare his assessment of the
claimant's RFC with the physical and mental demands of
the claimant's past relevant work. Id. at
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv) and (e), 404.1560(b),
416.920(a)(4)(iv) and (e), 416.960(b). “Past relevant
work is work that [the claimant] [has] done within the past
15 years, that was substantial gainful activity, and that
lasted long enough for [the claimant] to learn to do
it.” Id. §§ 404.1560(b)(1),
416.960(b)(1). The claimant bears the burden of proving her
impairment prevents her from performing her past relevant
work. Reynolds-Buckley, 457 Fed.Appx. at 863. If the
claimant is capable of performing her past relevant work, the
Commissioner will find the claimant is not disabled. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 404.1560(b)(3),
416.920(a)(4)(iv), 416.960(b)(3). Before proceeding to the
fourth step, the ALJ determined Drummonds has the RFC to
perform a limited range of light work. (Tr. at 25- 38). At the
fourth step, the ALJ determined Drummonds is able to perform
her past relevant work as an accountant, a controller, and a
cashier. (Id. at 38-40). Nonetheless,  the ALJ proceeded
to the fifth step and additionally determined there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy,
such as those of electronics worker, storage facility rental
clerk, office helper, production assembler, and wire worker,
Drummonds can perform given her age, education, work
experience, and RFC. (Id. at 40-41). Based on his
determinations at steps four and five of the sequential
evaluation, the ALJ concluded Drummonds is not disabled.
(Id. at 41).
Standard of Review
of the Commissioner's decision is limited to a
determination of whether that decision is supported by
substantial evidence and whether the Commissioner applied
correct legal standards. Crawford v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004). A district
court must review the Commissioner's findings of fact
with deference and may not reconsider the facts, reevaluate
the evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the
Commissioner. Ingram v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.
Admin., 496 F.3d 1253, 1260 (11th Cir. 2007); Dyer
v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005).
Rather, a district 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)
(internal citations omitted). 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. A district court
must uphold factual findings supported by substantial
evidence, even if the preponderance of the evidence is
against those findings. Miles v. Chater, 84 F.3d
1397, 1400 (11th Cir. 1996) (citing Martin v.
Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990)).
district court reviews the Commissioner's legal
conclusions de novo. Davis v. Shalala, 985
F.2d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 1993). “The
[Commissioner's] failure to apply the correct law or to
provide the reviewing court with sufficient reasoning for
determining that the proper legal analysis has been conducted