United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
ANNEMARIE CARNEY AXON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Cherrie Evon Hudson appeals the decision of the Commissioner
of Social Security denying her claim for a period of
disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental
security income benefits. Based on the court's review of
the administrative record and the parties' briefs, the
court WILL REVERSE AND REMAND the
Commissioner's decision for further administrative
8, 2015, Ms. Hudson applied for a period of disability,
disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security
income benefits. (R. 358-59, 362- 63). She alleged that her
disability began on December 17, 2012. (Id. at 358,
362). The Commissioner initially denied her application and
she requested review by an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). (Id. at 234-37, 265). After
holding a hearing (id. at 55-78), the ALJ issued an
unfavorable opinion (id. at 37-48), which Ms. Hudson
requested that the Appeals Council review (id. at
356). On May 25, 2017, the Appeals Council denied her request
for review. (Id. at 1-4). The Commissioner's
decision is now final and ripe for judicial review.
See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3).
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) (quotation
marks omitted). “Where the ALJ denies benefits and the
Appeals Council denies review, [this court] review[s] the
ALJ's decision as the Commissioner's final
decision.” Henry v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
802 F.3d 1264, 1267 (11th Cir. 2015) (quotation marks and
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, 802 F.3d at
1267 (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 (quotation marks
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) (quotation marks 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)). 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 Ms. Hudson had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since her alleged disability
onset date of December 17, 2012. (R. 39). She found that Ms.
Hudson' depression, anxiety, and degenerative disc
disease of the lumbar spine were severe impairments but that
the swelling in her legs and feet, varicose veins, sleep
disorder, and plantar fasciitis were not severe.
(Id. at 39-40). The ALJ also found that although Ms.
Hudson claimed she had knee pain, post-traumatic stress
disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder, those were not
medically determinable impairments. (Id. at 40). The
ALJ concluded that Ms. Hudson did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equalled the
severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. §
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Id. at 42-43).
After considering the evidence, the ALJ determined that Ms.
Hudson had the residual functional capacity to perform light
work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), except
the claimant can lift twenty pounds occasionally and ten
pounds frequently, sit at least six hours in an eight-hour
workday and stand and walk in combination at least six hours
in an eight-hour workday. The claimant can bilaterally handle
frequently. The claimant can occasionally climb ramps and
stairs but never ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. The claimant
can frequently balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. The
claimant can do no work around unprotected heights and can
have only occasional exposure to extreme cold and to
vibrations. The claimant is limited to simple, routine tasks.