United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
RORY O. SCALES, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
K. KALLON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Scales 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 decision adverse decision
of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
("SSA"). The court finds that the Administrative
Law Judge ("ALJ") applied the correct legal
standards and that his decision, which has become the
decision of the Commissioner, is supported by substantial
evidence. Accordingly, the court AFFIRMS the
decision denying benefits.
filed an application for disability insurance benefits on
September 28, 2000, alleging disability due to back pain and
major depression. See R. 91-92. The SSA found Scales
to be disabled as defined by the Act beginning April 11,
2001, and the SSA awarded him benefits. R. 85, 89. In
November 2012, the SSA conducted a continuing disability
review, as required by statute, and scheduled consultative
examinations for Scales. R. 358-59. Scales did not go to the
examinations, and he did not submit to an interview with the
SSA. R. 248-49, 252, 357-72. Accordingly, based on
Scales' failure to cooperate and the insufficient
evidence to show Scales' continued disability, the SSA
determined that Scales was no longer disabled for purposes of
the Act. R. 98, 101-02, 357-72. Scales requested
reconsideration, but the SSA again found that Scales was not
disabled because there was insufficient evidence to assess
the severity of Scales' impairments. R. 105, 107, 120,
124. Subsequently, Scales requested a hearing before an ALJ,
who found that Scales' disability ended as of November 1,
2012. R. 25, 126-27. The SSA Appeals Council denied Scales'
request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision the
final decision of the Commissioner. R. 1. Having exhausted
his administrative remedies, Scales filed this petition for
review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1383(c)(3) and
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.'" Id. (quoting
Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th
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, 894 F.2d at
1529 (quoting Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at 1239). If
supported by substantial evidence, the court must affirm the
Commissioner's factual findings even if the preponderance
of the evidence is against those findings. See Id.
While judicial review of the ALJ's findings is limited in
scope, it "does not yield automatic affirmance."
Lamb, 847 F.2d at 701.
contrast to the deferential review accorded the
Commissioner's factual findings, "conclusions of
law, including applicable review standards, are not presumed
valid" and are subject to de novo review.
Martin, 894 F.2d at 1529. The Commissioner's
failure to "apply the correct legal standards or to
provide the reviewing court with sufficient basis for a
determination that proper legal principles have been
followed" requires reversal. Id.
Statutory and Regulatory Framework
U.S.C. § 423(f) governs the termination of disability
benefits and provides in pertinent part that:
A recipient of benefits . . . may be determined not to be
entitled to such benefits on the basis of a finding that
[his] . . . physical or mental impairment . . . has ceased,
does not exist, or is not disabling only if such finding is
supported by  substantial evidence which demonstrates that-
a. there has been any medical improvement in the
individual's impairment or combination of impairments
(other than medical improvement which is not related to the
individual's ability to work), and
b. the individual is now able to engage in substantial
42 U.S.C. § 423(f)(1). The SSA uses an eight-step
sequential analysis when determining whether to terminate
disability benefits. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1594(f). The SSA's review may cease at any step in
the analysis if it determines there is sufficient evidence to
find that a recipient of ...