United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
THOMAS D. SCOTT, Plaintiff,
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
F. BIVINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Thomas D. Scott (hereinafter “Plaintiff”), seeks
judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security denying his claim for a period of disability
and disability insurance benefits under Titles II of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et
seq. On October 19, 2018, the parties consented to have
the undersigned conduct any and all proceedings in this case.
(Doc. 17). Thus, the action was referred to the undersigned
to conduct all proceedings and order the entry of judgment in
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 73. Upon careful consideration of the
administrative record and the memoranda of the parties, it is
hereby ORDERED that the decision of the
Commissioner be AFFIRMED.
filed his application for benefits on January 22, 2016,
alleging disability beginning May 1, 2014, based on major
depression, borderline personality disorder, asthma, sleep
apnea, degenerative disc of the spine, left knee, right
ankle, hearing loss, and tinnitus. (Doc. 8 at 172, 196, 205).
Plaintiff's application was denied and upon timely
request, he was granted an administrative hearing before
Administrative Law Judge L. Dawn Pischek (hereinafter
“ALJ”) on November 14, 2016. (Id. at
39). Plaintiff attended the hearing with his attorney and
provided testimony related to his claims. (Id. at
42). A vocational expert (“VE”) also appeared at
the hearing and provided testimony. (Id. at 68). On
April 24, 2017, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision
finding that Plaintiff is not disabled. (Id. at 19).
The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review
on August 15, 2017. (Id. at 5). Therefore, the
ALJ's decision dated April 24, 2017, became the final
decision of the Commissioner.
exhausted his administrative remedies, Plaintiff timely filed
the present civil action. (Doc. 1). Oral argument was
conducted on November 8, 2018. (Doc. 20). This case is now
ripe for judicial review and is properly before this Court
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).
Issues on Appeal
Whether the ALJ reversibly erred in failing to find that
Plaintiff's impairments met or equaled Listing 12.04
Whether the ALJ reversibly erred in failing to accord
adequate weight to the opinion of Plaintiff's treating
psychiatrist, Dr. John Cranton?
was born on November 17, 1970, and was forty-five years of
age at the time of his administrative hearing on November 14,
2016. (Doc. 8 at 39, 205). Plaintiff graduated from high
school and received training in technical school in drafting,
computer aided drafting, and design. (Id. at 44).
last worked from approximately 2000 to 2016 as a recruiter
for the military. (Id. at 46, 69, 220). Prior to
that, he worked as an electrician. (Id. at 59).
testified that he can no longer work because of grief over
his mother's death and because of problems with anger and
depression. (Id. at 59-62). He takes Adderall to
help him focus. (Id. at 51-52).
Standard of Review
reviewing claims brought under the Act, this Court's role
is a limited one. The Court's review is limited to
determining 1) whether the decision of the Secretary is
supported by substantial evidence and 2) whether the correct
legal standards were applied.Martin v. Sullivan, 894
F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990). A court may not decide the
facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute its judgment
for that of the Commissioner. Sewell v. Bowen, 792
F.2d 1065, 1067 (11th Cir. 1986). The Commissioner's
findings of fact must be affirmed if they are based upon
substantial evidence. Brown v. Sullivan, 921 F.2d
1233, 1235 (11th Cir. 1991); Bloodsworth v. Heckler,
703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983) (holding substantial
evidence is defined as “more than a scintilla, but less
than a preponderance” and consists of “such
relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.”). In determining
whether substantial evidence exists, a court must view the
record as a whole, taking into account evidence favorable, as
well as unfavorable, to the Commissioner's decision.
Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir.
1986); Short v. Apfel, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10163,
*4 (S.D. Ala. June 14, 1999).
Statutory and Regulatory Framework
individual who applies for Social Security disability
benefits must prove his or her disability. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1512, 416.912. Disability is defined as 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); see also 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1505(a), 416.905(a). The Social Security
regulations provide a five-step sequential evaluation process
for determining if a claimant has proven his disability. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.
claimant must first prove that he or she has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity. The second step requires the
claimant to prove that he or she has a severe impairment or
combination of impairments. If, at the third step, the
claimant proves that the impairment or combination of
impairments meets or equals a listed impairment, then the
claimant is automatically found disabled regardless of age,
education, or work experience. If the claimant cannot prevail
at the third step, he or she must proceed to the fourth step
where the claimant must prove an inability to perform their
past relevant work. Jones v. Bowen, 810 F.2d 1001,
1005 (11th Cir. 1986). At the fourth step, the ALJ must make
an assessment of the claimant's RFC. See Phillips v.
Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232, 1238 (llth Cir. 2004). The RFC
is an assessment, based on all relevant medical and other
evidence, of a claimant's remaining ability to work
despite his impairment. See Lewis v. Callahan, 125
F.3d 1436, 1440 (11th Cir. 1997).
claimant meets his or her burden at the fourth step, it then
becomes the Commissioner's burden to prove at the fifth
step that the claimant is capable of engaging in another kind
of substantial gainful employment which exists in significant
numbers in the national economy, given the claimant's
residual functional capacity, age, education, and work
history. Sryock v. Heckler, 764 F.2d 834, 836 (11th
Cir. 1985). If the Commissioner can demonstrate that there
are such jobs the claimant can perform, the claimant must
prove inability to perform those jobs in order to be found
disabled. Jones v. Apfel, 190 F.3d 1224, 1228 (11th
Cir. 1999). See also Hale v. Bowen, 831 F.2d 1007,
1011 (11th Cir. 1987) (citing Francis v. Heckler,
749 F.2d 1562, 1564 (11th Cir. 1985)).
Substantial evidence supports the ALJ's finding that
Plaintiff's impairments do not meet or equal Listings
12.04 or 12.08.
brief, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in finding that
his impairments do not meet Listings 12.04 and/or 12.08 given
that his treatment records and opinions from his treating
physicians satisfy the criteria for these Listings. (Doc. 9
at 7). The Government counters that the ALJ considered all of
Plaintiff's impairments and found that they did not meet
these or any other Listings and that the ALJ's finding is
supported by substantial evidence. (Doc. 13 at 6). Having
reviewed the record at length, the Court finds that
Plaintiff's claim is without merit.
claimant, such as Plaintiff in the instant case, contends
that he has an impairment meeting the listed impairments, he
must “present specific medical findings that meet the
various tests listed under the description of the applicable
impairment.” Bell v. Bowen, 796 F.2d 1350,
1353 (11th Cir. 1986). A diagnosis of a listed impairment is
not sufficient. See Carnes v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d
1215, 1218 (11th Cir. 1991). The record must contain
corroborative medical evidence supported by clinical and
laboratory findings. Id.; accord Sullivan v.
Zebley, 493 U.S. 521, 530 (1990) (“Each impairment
[in the Listings] is defined in terms of several specific
medical signs, symptoms, or laboratory test results. For a
claimant to show that his impairment matches a listing, it
must meet all of the specified medical criteria. An
impairment that manifests only some of those criteria, no
matter how severely, does not qualify.”).
Listing 12.04 (describing “depressive, bipolar, and
related disorders”), a claimant must establish the
criteria of paragraphs “A and B, or A and C,
” as follows:
A. Medical documentation of the requirements of paragraph 1
1. Depressive disorder, characterized by five or more of the
a. Depressed mood;
b. Diminished interest in almost all activities;
c. Appetite disturbance with change in ...