United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
ANNEMARIE CARNEY AXON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Jimmie Ragland, Jr. appeals the decision of the Commissioner
of Social Security denying his claims for a period of
disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental
security income. Based on the court's review of the
administrative record and the parties' briefs, the court
AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision.
Ragland applied for a period of disability, disability
insurance benefits, and supplemental security income on April
17, 2014. (R. 74-75). Mr. Ragland alleged that his disability
began on March 10, 2011. (R. 48-49). The Commissioner
initially denied Mr. Ragland's claims on June 24, 2014.
(R. 98-106). Mr. Ragland requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (R. 111-112). After holding a
hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on May 6,
2016. (R. 21-34). On April 28, 2017, the Appeals Council
declined Mr. Ragland's request for review (R. 1), making
the Commissioner's decision final and ripe for the
court's judicial review. See 42 U.S.C
§§ 405(g); 1383(c).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court's role in reviewing claims brought under the Social
Security Act is a narrow one. The court “must determine
whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by
substantial evidence and based on proper legal
standards.” Winschel v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178 (11th Cir. 2011) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted). “Under the
substantial evidence standard, this court will affirm the
ALJ's decision if there exists ‘such relevant
evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.'” Henry v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 802 F.3d 1264, 1267 (11th Cir. 2015) (quoting
Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178). The court may not
“decide the facts anew, reweigh the evidence, ”
or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ.
Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178 (internal quotations and
citation omitted). The court must affirm “[e]ven if the
evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's
findings.” Crawford v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158-59 (11th Cir. 2004) (per
curiam) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
the deferential standard for review of claims, the court must
“‘scrutinize the record as a whole to determine
if the decision reached is reasonable and supported by
substantial evidence.'” Henry, 802 F.3d at
1267 (quoting MacGregor v. Bowen, 786 F.2d 1050,
1053 (11th Cir. 1986)). Moreover, the court must reverse the
Commissioner's decision if the ALJ does not apply the
correct legal standards. Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936
F.2d 1143, 1145-46 (11th Cir. 1991).
determine whether an individual is disabled, an ALJ follows a
five-step sequential evaluation process. The ALJ considers:
(1) whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial
gainful activity; (2) whether the claimant has a severe
impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the
impairment meets or equals the severity of the specified
impairments in the Listing of Impairments; (4) based on a
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) assessment,
whether the claimant can perform any of his or her past
relevant work despite the impairment; and (5) whether there
are significant numbers of jobs in the national economy that
the claimant can perform given the claimant's RFC, age,
education, and work experience.
Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1178.
the ALJ determined that Mr. Ragland has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since March 10, 2011, the
alleged onset date. (R. 23). The ALJ found that Mr. Ragland
has the following severe impairments: hypertension, diabetes
mellitus, and degenerative disc disease. (R. 23). The ALJ
concluded that Mr. Ragland does not suffer from an impairment
or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals
the severity of one of one of the listed impairments in 20
C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (R. 24).
considering the evidence of record, the ALJ determined that
Mr. Ragland has the RFC to perform:
light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b)
except claimant can occasionally climb stairs and ramps but
never ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; can occasionally
balance, stoop, and kneel, but never crouch or crawl; can
constantly reach, handle, finger, and feel; cannot work
around concentrated exposure to extreme cold or wetness; and
should never work around hazardous condition[s] such as
unprotected heights or moving machinery.
on this RFC, the ALJ found that Mr. Ragland cannot perform
his past relevant work. (R. 32). Relying on testimony from a
vocational expert, the ALJ concluded that jobs exist in the
national economy that Mr. Ragland can perform, including
cashier II, housekeeper, garment sorter, surveillance system
monitor, telephone quotation clerk, and wire tapper. (R. 33).
Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Mr. Ragland has not been
under a disability as defined in the Social Security Act,
from March 10, 2011 through the date of the decision. (R.
Ragland argues that the court should reverse and remand the
Commissioner's decision for five reasons: (1) the ALJ did
not properly evaluate the opinion of treating physician Dr.
Ochuko Odjegba; (2) the ALJ substituted her opinion for that
of one-time examining physician Dr. Jarrod Warren; (3) the
vocational expert's testimony on which the ALJ relied is
not supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ's
hypothetical was incomplete; (4) the ALJ's RFC finding is
conclusory and violated SSR 96-8a; and (5) the ALJ did not
properly consider Mr.
testimony concerning the side effects of his medication. The