United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
WALLACE CAPEL, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
October 17, 2014, John Hunter Parker,
(“Plaintiff”) filed applications for a period of
disability and disability insurance benefits and for
supplemental security income, alleging that he became
disabled on April 7, 2013. The applications were denied at
the initial administrative level. Plaintiff then requested
and received a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). Following the hearing, the ALJ rendered
an unfavorable decision dated August 23, 2016. Plaintiff
appealed that decision and the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review. The ALJ's decision
consequently became the final decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security (“Commissioner”). See
Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir.
1986). The case is now before the court for review of that
decision under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(c), both parties have consented to the conduct of
all proceedings and entry of a final judgment by the
undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. Pl.'s Consent
to Jurisdiction (Doc. 12); Def.'s Consent to Jurisdiction
(Doc. 11). Based on the court's review of the record and
the parties' briefs, the court REVERSES the
Commissioner's decision and REMANDS this matter to the
Commissioner for further consideration.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A), a person is entitled to
benefits when the person is unable 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
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
this determination, the Commissioner employs a five-step,
sequential evaluation process. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920 (2011).
(1) Is the person presently unemployed?
(2) Is the person's impairment severe?
(3) Does the person's impairment meet or equal one of the
specific impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt.
P, App. 1 [the Listing of Impairments]?
(4) Is the person unable to perform his or her former
(5) Is the person unable to perform any other work within the
economy? 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
McDaniel v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir.
burden of proof rests on the claimant through Step Four.
See Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1237-39
(11th Cir. 2004). A claimant establishes a prima
facie case of qualifying disability once he or she has
carried the burden of proof from Step One through Step Four.
At Step Five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner, who must
then show that there are a significant number of jobs in the
national economy that the claimant can perform. Id.
perform the fourth and fifth steps, the ALJ must determine
the claimant's Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”). Id. at 1238-39. The RFC is what
the claimant is still able to do despite the claimant's
impairments and is based on all relevant medical and other
evidence. Id. It may contain both exertional and
nonexertional limitations. Id. at 1242-43. At the
fifth step, the ALJ considers the claimant's RFC, age,
education, and work experience to determine if there are jobs
available in the national economy that the claimant can
perform. Id. at 1239. To do this, the ALJ can use
either the Medical Vocational Guidelines
(“grids”), see 20 C.F.R. pt. 404 subpt.
P, app. 2, or call a vocational expert (“VE”).
Id. at 1239-40.
grids allow the ALJ to consider factors such as age,
confinement to sedentary or light work, inability to speak
English, educational deficiencies, and lack of job
experience. Each factor can independently limit the number of
jobs realistically available to an individual.
Phillips, 357 F.3d at 1240. Combinations of these
factors yield a statutorily-required finding of
“Disabled” or “Not Disabled.”
court's review of the Commissioner's decision is a
limited one. This court must find the Commissioner's
decision conclusive if it is supported by substantial
evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Graham v. Apfel,
129 F.3d 1420, 1422 (11th Cir. 1997). “Substantial
evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than a
preponderance. It is such relevant evidence as a reasonable
person would accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 401 (1971); see also Crawford v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004) (“Even
if the evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's
findings, [a reviewing court] must affirm if the decision
reached is supported by substantial evidence.”). A
reviewing court may not look only to those parts of the
record which support the decision of the ALJ, but instead
must view the record in its entirety and take account of
evidence which detracts from the evidence relied on by the
ALJ. Hillsman v. Bowen, 804 F.2d 1179 (11th Cir.
[The court must] . . . scrutinize the record in its entirety
to determine the reasonableness of the [Commissioner's] .
. . factual findings. . . . No. similar presumption of
validity attaches to the [Commissioner's] . . . legal
conclusions, including determination of the proper standards
to be applied in evaluating claims.
Walker v. Bowen, 826 F.2d 996, 999 (11th Cir. 1987).
was thirty-one years old on the date of the ALJ's
decision. Tr. 40, 227, 229. He completed high school, during
which he took special education classes. Tr. 248-49.
Plaintiff had past work experience as a general laborer,
mechanic helper, warehouse worker, and janitor. Tr. 82-83,
266-273. Following the administrative hearing, and employing
the five-step process, the ALJ found at Step One that
Plaintiff “has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since April 7, 2013, the alleged onset
date[.]” Tr. 19. At Step Two, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff suffers from the following severe impairments:
“obesity in combination with history of right ankle
fracture, schizoaffective disorder, conduct disorder,
antisocial disorder, borderline intellectual functioning,
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and history of
seizures[.]” Id. At Step Three, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff “does not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the
severity of one of the listed impairments[.]” Tr. 20.
Next, the ALJ articulated Plaintiff's RFC as follows:
[t]he claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and
416.967(c) except the claimant is limited to occasional
climbing ramps and stairs. The claimant is precluded from
climbing ladders and scaffolds. The claimant can frequently
balance, stoop, knee[l], crouch and crawl. The claimant is
also precluded from working around unprotected heights,
hazardous, moving mechanical parts and operating a motor
vehicle for commercial purposes. The claimant is limited to
simple, repetitive, and routine tasks. The claimant is
limited to occasional interaction with supervisors,
coworkers, and the public. The claimant is also limited to
having occasional ...