United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Jasper Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND DISMISSAL ORDER
N. JOHNSON, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
William Frost 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 his claim for 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 Frost had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
from his alleged onset date of October 14, 2014, through the date
of the ALJ's opinion, August 9, 2016. (Tr. 12). At step
two, the ALJ found that Frost suffers the following severe
impairments: scoliosis; lumbar facet arthropathy;
gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), post-surgery; and
hiatal hernia, post-surgery. Id. At step three, the
ALJ concluded that Frost'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 Frost exhibited the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work as defined
in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b) but with certain
limitations. (Tr. 14). At step four, the ALJ found that
Frost could perform his past relevant work as a security
guard. (Tr. 16).
21, 2017, the Appeals Council denied review, which deems the
ALJ's decision as the Commissioner's final decision.
(Tr. 2). On August 25, 2017, Frost filed his complaint with
the court seeking review of the ALJ's decision. (Doc. 1).
appeal, Frost contends substantial evidence does not support
the ALJ's decision. Specifically, he faults the ALJ for:
(1) improperly finding that Frost could perform his past
relevant work as a security guard; (2) failing to utilize the
Medical-Vocational Guidelines to show a finding of
disability; and (3) improperly according partial weight to
the opinion of the treating physician. 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 Finding that
Frost Could Perform His Past Relevant Work
four, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is capable
of performing his past relevant work. See 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(e). The review at this step involves the
assessment of a claimant's residual functional capacity
and requires consideration of the physical and mental demands
of his former work. Id. To determine the physical
and mental demands of a claimant's past work, an ALJ may
rely on the testimony of a vocational expert
(“VE”) and the job descriptions set forth in the
Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT”).
See Simpson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 379
Fed.Appx. 948, 952-53 (11th Cir. 2010).
regard, “the ALJ has the duty to fully
investigate and make explicit findings as to the
physical and mental demands of a claimant's past relevant
work and to compare that with what the claimant h[im]self is
capable of doing before [the ALJ] determines that [ ]he is
able to perform h[is] past relevant work.” Nelms v.
Bowen, 803 F.2d 1164 (11th Cir. 1986).
However, at this step, the burden still falls upon the
claimant to prove that he cannot do this past work either as
performed or as it is generally performed in the
national economy. Lucas v. Sullivan, 918 F.2d 1567
(11th Cir. 1990)(citing Cannon v. Bowen,
858 F.2d 1541, 1544 (11th Cir. 1988)).
alleges the ALJ improperly found that he could return to his
past relevant work as a security guard because the DOT
classifies the job as light work yet the vocational expert
(“VE”) testified that Frost performed the job at
a sedentary level. The Commissioner responded that the ALJ
adequately considered the testimony of both Frost and the VE,
and therefore substantial evidence supports the ALJ's
determination that Frost could perform his past relevant
relied on testimony from the VE concerning Frost's past
work experience. (Tr. 73-77). The VE confirmed Frost
performed his past relevant work as a security guard at the
sedentary level. (Tr. 74). Furthermore, the VE identified the
position in the DOT at § 372.667- 034. (Tr. 73).
See 1991 WL 673100. The VE further testified that a
hypothetical individual with Frost's RFC could perform
his past relevant work as he actually performed it and as
generally performed in the national economy. (Tr. 75-76).
The court finds that substantial evidence supports the
ALJ's determination that Frost could still perform his
past relevant work as a security guard. Frost contends the
ALJ erroneously listed his security guard experience as past
relevant work because he never performed all of the tasks
listed in the DOT's description. (Doc. 12 at 10).
However, it remains the claimant's burden to demonstrate
he can no longer perform his past relevant work as he
actually performed it, and he can no longer perform the work
as performed in the general economy. Waldrop v.