United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. BORDEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Tina Truchon Sawls applied for supplemental security income
and disability insurance benefits under the Social Security
Act, alleging a disability onset date of March 1, 2011.
Sawls' claim was denied at the initial administrative
level. Sawls requested a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) and the ALJ found her not disabled.
Doc. 14-2 at 16. The Appeals Council denied her request for
review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of
the Commissioner. Doc. 14-2 at 9. The Commissioner's
final decision is subject to judicial review. 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) & 1383(c)(3). Sawls subsequently
filed a complaint seeking review of the Commissioner's
final decision in this court.
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1) and Rule 73 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure, the parties have consented to the
full jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge. Doc. 8 & Doc. 9. Based upon a review of the
evidentiary record, the parties' briefs, and the relevant
authority, the court finds that the Commissioner's
decision is due to be AFFIRMED, as set forth below.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court reviews a Social Security appeal to determine whether
the Commissioner's decision “is supported by
substantial evidence and based upon proper legal
standards.” Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436,
1439 (11th Cir. 1997). The court will reverse the
Commissioner's decision if it is convinced that the
decision was not supported by substantial evidence or that
the proper legal standards were not applied. Carnes v.
Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1215, 1218 (11th Cir. 1991). The
court “may not decide the facts anew, reweigh the
evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the
Commissioner, ” but rather it “must defer to the
Commissioner's decision if it is supported by substantial
evidence.” Miles v. Chater, 84 F.3d 1397, 1400
(11th Cir. 1997) (internal quotation marks omitted).
“Even if the evidence preponderates against the
Secretary's factual findings, [the court] must affirm if
the decision reached is supported by substantial
evidence.” Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520,
1529 (11th Cir. 1990). Moreover, reversal is not warranted
even if the court would have reached a result contrary to
that of the factfinder. See Edwards v. Sullivan, 937
F.2d 580, 584 n.3 (11th Cir. 1991).
substantial evidence standard is met “if a reasonable
person would accept the evidence in the record as adequate to
support the challenged conclusion.” Holladay v.
Bowen, 848 F.2d 1206, 1208 (11th Cir. 1988) (quoting
Boyd v. Heckler, 704 F.2d 1207, 1209 (11th Cir.
1983)). The requisite evidentiary showing has been described
as “more than a scintilla, but less than a
preponderance.” Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1239.
The court must scrutinize the entire record to determine the
reasonableness of the decision reached and cannot “act
as [an] automaton in reviewing the [Commissioner's]
decision.” Hale v. Bowen, 831 F.2d 1007, 1010
(11th Cir. 1987). Thus, the court must consider evidence both
favorable and unfavorable to the Commissioner's decision.
Swindle v. Sullivan, 914 F.2d 222, 225 (11th Cir.
court will reverse the Commissioner's decision on plenary
review if the decision applies incorrect law or fails to
provide the court with sufficient reasoning to determine that
the Commissioner properly applied the law. Id.
(citing Keeton v. Dept. of Health & Human
Servs., 21 F.3d 1064, 1066 (11th Cir. 1994)). There is
no presumption that the Commissioner's conclusions of law
are valid. Id.
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 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A); 42 U.S.C. § 416(i). 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). A claimant bears the burden of proving that he is
disabled, and he is responsible for producing evidence to
support his claim. See Ellison v. Barnhart, 355 F.3d
1272, 1276 (11th Cir. 2003).
determination of disability under the Social Security Act
requires a five-step analysis. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a).
The Commissioner must determine in sequence:
(1) Is the claimant performing substantial gainful activity?
(2) Does she have a severe impairment?
(3) Does she have a severe impairment that equals one of the
specific impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. Pt. ...