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Seymour v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

March 21, 2019

GEORGE E. SEYMOUR, JR., Plaintiff,
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         Plaintiff George E. Seymour, Jr. (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 Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq. On October 12, 2018, the parties consented to have the undersigned conduct any and all proceedings in this case. (Doc. 12). 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.

         I. Procedural History[1]

         Plaintiff filed his application for benefits on June 16, 2015, alleging disability beginning September 10, 2009, based on diabetes, neuropathy, and spinal stenosis. (Doc. 8 at 182, 194, 207). Plaintiff last met insured status on December 31, 2013. (Id. at 23). Plaintiff's application was denied and upon timely request, he was granted an administrative hearing before Administrative Law Judge Robert Waller (hereinafter “ALJ”) on November 21, 2016. (Id. at 73). Plaintiff attended the hearing with his attorney and provided testimony related to his claims. (Id. at 77). A vocational expert (“VE”) also appeared at the hearing and provided testimony. (Id. at 108). On February 8, 2017, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding that Plaintiff is not disabled. (Id. at 21). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on October 26, 2017. (Id. at 6). Therefore, the ALJ's decision dated February 8, 2017, became the final decision of the Commissioner.

         Having exhausted his administrative remedies, Plaintiff timely filed the present civil action. (Doc. 1). Oral argument was conducted on November 16, 2018. (Doc. 15). 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).

         II. Issue on Appeal

         Whether substantial evidence supports the Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”) for a range of sedentary work with the stated restrictions?

         III. Factual Background

         Plaintiff was born on October 10, 1971, and was forty-five years of age at the time of his administrative hearing on November 21, 2016. (Doc. 8 at 77, 194). Plaintiff graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Health and Human Performance. (Id. at 78-79).

         Plaintiff last worked from 2006 to 2009 as a substitute teacher. (Id. at 79). Prior to that, from 2002 to 2006, he was employed as a pizza restaurant worker and from 1995 to 2002 as an assistant manager at a pizza restaurant. (Id. at 80-82).

         Plaintiff testified that he can no longer work because of problems with his heart, back, diabetes, and high blood pressure. (Id. at 83-85). Plaintiff testified that he had surgery on his back in 2009, and this significantly alleviated his back pain and eliminated the need for a walker. (Id. at 85-88). Plaintiff also had heart problems in 2009, which steadily improved with medication and exercise. (Id. at 88-89). From 2009 to 2013, Plaintiff's diabetes was managed with medication; however, in 2014, some of his toes had to be amputated because of non-healing diabetic ulcers. (Id. at 91-92). Plaintiff testified that it was hard for him to wear shoes, and he got fatigued easily. (Id. at 100-01). However, Plaintiff also testified that, during the period in question, he exercised and walked about a mile, four or five days a week. (Id. at 89, 103-04).

         IV. Standard of Review

         In 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.[2]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).

         V. Statutory and ...

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