United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
JAMES B. CANNON, on behalf of TINA STANFIELD CANNON, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
RUSS WALKER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
James B. Cannon, on behalf of Tina Stanfield Cannon,
commenced this action on August 11, 2017, pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a final
adverse decision of the Commissioner partially denying Tina
Stanfield Cannon's (“the claimant's”)
applications for supplemental security income benefits
(“SSI”), and disability insurance
benefits. See Doc. 1; R. 22. On September
23, 2014, the claimant protectively filed applications for
disability and SSI benefits, alleging disability as of March
16, 2014, due to lupus, high blood pressure, staph infection,
ulcer, and heart disease. See Doc. 13 at 1; R. 11,
188-201, 222. On October 6, 2016, Administrative Law Judge
Amy H. Naylor (“the ALJ”) issued a partially
adverse decision after holding a hearing on the
claimant's applications. See R. 11-22. The
Appeals Council denied claimant's request for review, and
the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner. See R. 1-5.
instant appeal, the plaintiff asks the court to reverse the
Commissioner's partially adverse decision and award
benefits for the period from March 15, 2014 through September
29, 2015 or, in the alternative, to remand this cause to the
Commissioner under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
See Docs. 1 at 3; 13 at 11. This case is ripe for
review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3).
The parties have consented to entry of final judgment by the
Magistrate Judge. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c);
see also Docs. 10, 11. For the reasons stated
herein, and based upon its review of the record, the court
finds that the Commissioner's decision is due to be
remanded for additional proceedings.
court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
narrowly circumscribed. The function of this court is to
determine whether the decision of the Commissioner is
supported by substantial evidence and whether proper legal
standards were applied. Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 390 (1971); Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d
1219, 1221 (11th Cir. 2002). This 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. A reviewing court
“may not decide facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or
substitute [its] decision for that of the
[Commissioner].” Dyer v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d
1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005). In other words, this court is
prohibited from reviewing the Commissioner's findings of
fact de novo, even where a preponderance of the
evidence supports alternative conclusions.
the court must uphold factual findings that are supported by
substantial evidence, 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.
Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46 (11th
qualify for SSI and disability benefits, a claimant must be
disabled as defined by the Social Security Act and the
Regulations promulgated thereunder. The Regulations define
“disabled” as “the inability to do 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
twelve (12) months.” 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1505(a), 416.905(a). To establish an entitlement to
disability benefits, a claimant must provide evidence about a
“physical or mental impairment” that “must
result from anatomical, physiological, or psychological
abnormalities which can be shown by medically acceptable
clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1508, 416.908.
Regulations provide a five-step process for determining
whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i-v), 416.920(a)(4)(i-v). The Commissioner
must determine in sequence:
(1) whether the claimant is currently employed;
(2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment;
(3) whether the claimant's impairment meets or equals an
impairment listed by the Commissioner;
(4) whether the claimant can perform his or her past work;
(5) whether the claimant is capable of performing any work in
the national economy.
Pope v. Shalala, 998 F.2d 473, 477 (7th Cir. 1993)
(citing to a formerly applicable C.F.R. section),
overruled on other grounds by Johnson v. Apfel, 189
F.3d 561, 562-63 (7th Cir.1999); accord McDaniel v.
Bowen, 800 F.2d 1026, 1030 (11th Cir. 1986). The
sequential analysis goes as follows:
Once the claimant has satisfied steps One and Two, she will
automatically be found disabled if she suffers from a listed
impairment. If the claimant does not have a listed impairment
but cannot perform her work, the burden shifts to the
[Commissioner] to show that the claimant can perform some
Pope, 998 F.2d at 477; accord Foote v.
Chater, 67 F.3d 1553, 1559 (11th Cir. 1995). The
Commissioner must further show that such work exists in the
national economy in significant numbers. Id.
hearing before the ALJ held on April 28, 2016, the claimant
was 50 years old. R. 44. She testified that her condition had
worsened since she quit working in the first quarter of 2014.
R. 46. She constantly had cardiac issues, but they got worse
in June of that year when she had to be rushed to the
emergency room. R. 47.
time of the hearing, claimant lived only with her husband;
her daughter and son had moved out. R. 47. The ALJ questioned
the claimant about notations in medical records concerning
her being a primary caregiver for her grandchildren. Although
she used to watch the grandchildren if her daughter had to go
out on occasion, she had not been driving them for quite a
while. The claimant quit driving six to eight months prior to
the hearing because she got dizzy and saw spots. R. 48. Her