United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
E. Ott Chief United States Magistrate Judge
Steven Wayne Olinger brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), seeking review of the final decision of the
Acting Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying him Supplemental Social
Security (“SSI”) and Disability Insurance
Benefits (“DIB”). (Doc. 1). The case has been
assigned to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge
pursuant to this court's general order of reference. The
parties have consented to the jurisdiction of this court for
disposition of the matter. See 28 U.S.C. §
636(c), Fed.R.Civ.P. 73(a). Upon review of the record and the
relevant law, the undersigned finds that the
Commissioner's decision is due to be affirmed.
filed his applications for SSI and DIB on March 30, 2015,
alleging disability beginning February 23, 2015. They were
initially denied by an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”). (R. 7, 10-23). Plaintiff filed a request
for review of the ALJ's decision. In support thereof, he
submitted an additional medical statement from is treating
physician, Dr. Michael M. Butler. (Id. 29). The
Appeals Council (“AC”) denied Plaintiff's
request for review, stating that “[w]e find this
evidence does not show a reasonable probability that it [(the
additional evidence)] would change the outcome of the
decision.” (Id. at 1-2).
was 33 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision.
(Id. at 44). He has a high school education and
three years of vocational school training. (Id. at
45). He is divorced and has two children - ages six and
eleven. He lives alone. (Id. at 45-47). His children
occasionally live with him. (Id. at 47).
Plaintiff's administrative hearing, the ALJ found that he
had the medically determinable severe impairments of
non-ischemic dilated cardiomyopathy, status post implantable
cardio defibrillator, and poly substance use/abuse.
(Id. at 12). He also found that Plaintiff did not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
equaled the severity of a listed impairment. (Id. at
13). He further found that Plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary
work with limitations. (Id. at 14). He determined
that Plaintiff could not perform his past relevant work but
could perform the requirements of representative unskilled
occupations such as a table worker, order clerk, and call out
operator, which were identified by the vocational expert.
(Id. at 21-22). The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was
not disabled. (R. 22).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
narrowly circumscribed. The function of the court is to
determine whether the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence and whether proper legal
standards were applied. Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 390, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 1422 (1971); Mitchell v.
Comm'r Soc. Sec., 771 F.3d 780, 782 (11th Cir. 2015;
Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1221 (11th Cir.
2002). The 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).
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.
court must uphold factual findings that are supported by
substantial evidence. However, it reviews the ALJ's legal
conclusions de novo because no presumption of
validity attaches to the ALJ's determination of the
proper legal standards to be applied. Davis v.
Shalala, 985 F.2d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 1993). If the
court finds an error in the ALJ's application of the law,
or if the ALJ fails to provide the court with sufficient
reasoning for determining that the proper legal analysis has
been conducted, it must reverse the ALJ's decision.
See Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46
(11th Cir. 1991). The court must affirm the ALJ's
decision if substantial evidence supports it, even if other
evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's
findings. See Crawford v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004) (quoting Martin v.
Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir.1990)).
STATUTORY AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
qualify for 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. § 1382c(a)(3)(A).
A physical or mental impairment is “an impairment that
results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological
abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable
clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” 42
U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(D).
of disability under the Social Security Act requires a five
step analysis. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). Specifically,
the Commissioner must determine in sequence:
whether the claimant: (1) is unable to engage in substantial
gainful activity; (2) has a severe medically determinable
physical or mental impairment; (3) has such an impairment
that meets or equals a Listing and meets the duration
requirements; (4) can perform his past relevant work, in
light of his residual functional capacity; and (5) can make
an adjustment to other work, in light of his residual
functional capacity, age, education, and work experience.
Evans v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 551 Fed.Appx. 521,
524 (11th Cir. 2014).The plaintiff bears the burden of proving
that he was disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act. Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1211
(11th Cir. 2005); see also 20 C.F.R. §
404.704. The applicable “regulations place a very heavy
burden on the claimant to demonstrate both a qualifying
disability and an inability to perform past relevant