United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND DISMISSAL ORDER
N. JOHNSON, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Angela Battles seeks judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) of an adverse, final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner” or “Secretary”),
regarding her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits and
Supplemental Security Income. The undersigned carefully
considered the record, and for the reasons expressed herein,
AFFIRMS the Commissioner's
AND STANDARD OF REVIEW
qualify for disability benefits and establish entitlement for
a period of disability, the 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). To
establish an entitlement to disability benefits, a claimant
must provide evidence of a “physical or mental
impairment” which “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.
determining whether a claimant suffers a disability, the
Commissioner, through an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ),
works through a five-step sequential evaluation process.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. The burden rests upon
the claimant on the first four steps of this five-step
process; the Commissioner sustains the burden at step five,
if the evaluation proceeds that far. Washington v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 906 F.3d 1353, 1359
(11th Cir. 2018).
first step, the claimant cannot be currently engaged in
substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b).
Second, the claimant must prove the impairment is
“severe” in that it “significantly limits
[the] physical or mental ability to do basic work activities
. . . .” Id. at § 404.1520(c).
three, the evaluator must conclude the claimant is disabled
if the impairments meet or are medically equivalent to one of
the impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App.
1, §§ 1.00-114.02. Id. at §
404.1520(d). If a claimant's impairment meets the
applicable criteria at this step, that claimant's
impairments would prevent any person from performing
substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 404.1525, 416.920(a)(4)(iii). That is, a
claimant who satisfies steps one and two qualifies
automatically for disability benefits if the claimant suffers
a listed impairment. See Williams v. Astrue, 416
Fed.Appx. 861, 862 (11th Cir. 2011) (“If, at
the third step, [the claimant] proves that [an] impairment or
combination of impairments meets or equals a listed
impairment, [the claimant] is automatically found disabled
regardless of age, education, or work experience.”)
(citing 20 C.F.R. § 416.920; Crayton v.
Callahan, 120 F.3d 1217, 1219 (11th Cir.
claimant's impairment or combination of impairments does
not meet or medically equal a listed impairment, the
evaluation proceeds to the fourth step where the claimant
demonstrates an incapacity to meet the physical and mental
demands of past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e).
At this step, the evaluator must determine whether the
claimant has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform the requirements of past
relevant work. See Id. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant's
impairment or combination of impairments does not prevent
performance of past relevant work, the evaluator will
determine the claimant is not disabled. See id.
claimant is successful at the preceding step, the fifth step
shifts the burden to the Commissioner to provide evidence,
considering the claimant's RFC, age, education and past
work experience, that the claimant is capable of performing
other work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1512(g). If the
claimant can perform other work, the evaluator will not find
the claimant disabled. See Id. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v); see also 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g), 416.920(g). If the claimant
cannot perform other work, the evaluator will find the
claimant disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v),
404.1520(g), 416.920(a)(4)(v), 416.920(g).
court reviews the ALJ's “‛decision with
deference to the factual findings and close scrutiny of the
legal conclusions.'” Parks ex rel. D.P. v.
Comm'r, Social Sec. Admin., 783 F.3d 847, 850
(11th Cir. 2015) (quoting Cornelius v.
Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145 (11th Cir.
1991)). The court must determine whether substantial evidence
supports the Commissioner's decision and whether the
Commissioner applied the proper legal standards. Winschel
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1178
(11th Cir. 2011). Although the 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)
(citations omitted), 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 (citations and internal quotation marks
omitted). “Substantial evidence is more than a
scintilla and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable
person would accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. (citations omitted).
Nonetheless, substantial evidence exists even if the evidence
preponderates against the Commissioner's decision.
Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1211
(11th Cir. 2005).
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
the five-step sequential process, the ALJ found at step one
that Battles met the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2018. (Tr. 12). The
ALJ further found Battles had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since January 8, 2015, the alleged onset
date. (Id.) At step two, the ALJ found that Battles
suffers the following severe impairments: affective disorder,
anxiety disorder, and personality disorder. (Id.) At
step three, the ALJ concluded that Battles's impairment
or combination of impairments did not meet or medically equal
any impairment for presumptive disability listed in 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 13).
the ALJ found that Battles exhibited the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform a full range of work
at all exertional levels but with certain
limitations. (Tr. 15). At step four, the ALJ found
Battles could perform her past relevant work as a cleanup
worker and storage laborer/stocker. (Tr. 19).
December 1, 2017, the Appeals Council denied review, which
deems the ALJ's decision as the Commissioner's final
decision. (Tr. 1). On January 31, 2018, Battles filed her
complaint with the court seeking review of the ALJ's
decision. (Doc. 1).
appeal, Ms. Battles contends substantial evidence does not
support the ALJ's decision. Specifically, she argues that
substantial evidence does not support the ALJ's RFC
calculation. Battles also asserts the ALJ improperly accorded
little weight to the examining psychiatrist's opinion.
Finally, Battle contends the Appeals Council erred in
refusing to consider new evidence from Harriette Brown, M.A.,
and Dr. Fredric Feist and, had the Appeals Council considered
this evidence, the ALJ's decision no longer rests upon
substantial evidence. After consideration of the record and
the ALJ's decision, the court finds substantial evidence
supports the ALJ's determination.
Substantial Evidence Supports the ALJ's RFC
functional capacity” represents “an
individual's ability to do sustained work-related
physical and mental activities in a work setting on a regular
and continuing basis.” SSR 96-8p. A “regular and
continuing basis” corresponds to eight hours a day, for
five days a week, or an equivalent work schedule.
Id. The regulations define RFC as “the most [a
claimant] can still do despite [the claimant's]
limitations.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1). In
formulating an RFC, the ALJ considers a claimant's
“ability to meet the physical, mental, sensory, and
other requirements of work.” 20 C.F.R. §
404.1545(a)(4). The ALJ examines all relevant medical and
other evidence, including “any statements about what
[the claimant] can still do that have been provided by
medical sources, ” as well as “descriptions and
observations [provided by the claimant, family, neighbors,
friends, or other persons] of [the claimant's]
limitations. . ., including limitations that result from . .
. symptoms such as pain.” 20 C.F.R. §