United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
G. CORNELIUS U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
plaintiff, James Bruce Carroll, appeals from the decision of
the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the
“Commissioner”) denying his application for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). Carroll
timely pursued and exhausted his administrative remedies, and
the Commissioner's decision is ripe for review pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). For the reasons discussed below,
the Commissioner's decision is due to be affirmed.
completed the tenth grade and has previously worked as a
forklift operator. (Tr. at 175, 195, 219). In his application
for DIB, Carroll claimed he became disabled on March 28,
2013, due to high blood pressure, gout, thrombosis, an
irregular heartbeat, arthritis, lower back pain, high
cholesterol, anxiety, panic disorder, shortness of breath,
and the inability to stand or bend for any length of time.
(Id. at 175, 194). After his claim was denied,
Carroll requested a hearing before an administrative law
judge (“ALJ”). (Id. at 84). Following
two hearings, the ALJ denied Carroll's claim.
(Id. at 15-36). Carroll was 58 years old when the ALJ
issued his decision. (Id. at 36, 175). After the
Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision
(id. at 1-3), that decision became the final
decision of the Commissioner, see Frye v. Massanari,
209 F.Supp.2d 1246, 1251 (N.D. Ala. 2001) (citing Falge
v. Apfel, 150 F.3d 1320, 1322 (11th Cir. 1998)).
Thereafter, Carroll commenced this action. (Doc. 1).
Statutory and Regulatory Framework
establish eligibility for disability benefits, a claimant
must show “the inability to engage in 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 months.” 42
U.S.C. §§ 416(i)(1)(A), 423(d)(1)(A); see
also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a). Furthermore, a
claimant must show that he was disabled between his alleged
initial onset date and his date last insured. Mason v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 430 Fed.Appx. 830, 831
(11th Cir. 2011) (citing Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d
1209, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005); Demandre v. Califano,
591 F.2d 1088, 1090 (5th Cir. 1979)). The Social Security
Administration employs a five-step sequential analysis to
determine an individual's eligibility for disability
benefits. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4).
the Commissioner must determine whether the claimant is
engaged in “substantial gainful activity.”
Id. at § 404.1520(a)(4)(i). “Under the
first step, the claimant has the burden to show that she is
not currently engaged in substantial gainful activity.”
Reynolds-Buckley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 457
Fed.Appx. 862, 863 (11th Cir. 2012). If the claimant is
engaged in substantial gainful activity, the Commissioner
will determine the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(i) and (b). At the first step, the ALJ
determined Carroll last met the insured status requirements
of the Social Security Act on September 30, 2016, and has not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged
onset date of March 28, 2013. (Tr. at 17-18).
claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful activity, the
Commissioner must next determine whether the claimant suffers
from a severe physical or mental impairment or combination of
impairments that has lasted or is expected to last for a
continuous period of at least twelve months. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(ii). An impairment “must result from
anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities
which can be shown by medically acceptable clinical and
laboratory diagnostic techniques.” Id. at
§ 404.1508. Furthermore, it “must be established
by medical evidence consisting of signs, symptoms, and
laboratory findings, not only by [the claimant's]
statement of symptoms.” Id.; see also
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(3). An impairment is severe if it
“significantly limits [the claimant's] physical or
mental ability to do basic work activities . . . .” 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). “[A]n impairment can be
considered as not severe only if it is a slight abnormality
which has such a minimal effect on the individual that it
would not be expected to interfere with the individual's
ability to work, irrespective of age, education, or work
experience.” Brady v. Heckler, 724 F.2d 914,
920 (11th Cir. 1984); see also 20 C.F.R. §
404.1521(a). A claimant may be found disabled based on a
combination of impairments, even though none of his
individual impairments alone is disabling. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1523. The claimant bears the burden of providing medical
evidence demonstrating an impairment and its severity.
Id. at § 404.1512(a) and (c). If the claimant
does not have a severe impairment or combination of
impairments, the Commissioner will determine the claimant is
not disabled. Id. at § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii) and
second step, the ALJ determined Carroll has the following
severe impairments: osteoarthritis, gout, essential
hypertension, neuropathy, mixed hyperlipidemia, obesity,
anxiety, major depressive disorder, and alcohol dependence.
(Tr. at 18).
claimant has a severe impairment or combination of
impairments, the Commissioner must then determine whether the
impairment meets or equals one of the “Listings”
found in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii); see also Id. at §
404.1525-26. The claimant bears the burden of proving his
impairment meets or equals one of the Listings.
Reynolds-Buckley, 457 Fed. App'x at 863. If the
claimant's impairment meets or equals one of the
Listings, the Commissioner will determine the claimant is
disabled. 20 C.F.R § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii) and (d). At the
third step, the ALJ determined Carroll does not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals the severity of one of the Listings. (Tr. at
claimant's impairment does not meet or equal one of the
Listings, the Commissioner must determine the claimant's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) before
proceeding to the fourth step. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e);
see also Id. at § 404.1545. A claimant's
RFC is the most he can do despite his impairment. See
id. at § 404.1545(a)(1). At the fourth step, the
Commissioner will compare his assessment of the
claimant's RFC with the physical and mental demands of
the claimant's past relevant work. Id. at
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv) and (e), 404.1560(b).
“Past relevant work is work that [the claimant] [has]
done within the past 15 years, that was substantial gainful
activity, and that lasted long enough for [the claimant] to
learn to do it.” Id. at § 404.1560(b)(1).
The claimant bears the burden of proving his impairment
prevents him from performing his past relevant work.
Reynolds-Buckley, 457 Fed.Appx. at 863. If the
claimant is capable of performing his past relevant work, the
Commissioner will determine the claimant is not disabled. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 404.1560(b)(3).
proceeding to the fourth step, the ALJ determined Carroll has
the RFC to perform medium work with occasional stooping and
crouching; no climbing; no pushing and/or pulling of the
bilateral lower extremities; the performance of simple,
non-complex tasks; and occasional contact with co-workers or
supervisors. (Tr. at 23-34). At the fourth step, the ALJ
determined Carroll is not capable of performing any of his
past relevant work. (Id. at 34).
claimant is unable to perform his past relevant work, the
Commissioner must finally determine whether the claimant is
capable of performing other work that exists in substantial
numbers in the national economy in light of the
claimant's RFC, age, education, and work experience. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v) and (g)(1),
404.1560(c)(1). If the claimant is capable of performing
other work, the Commissioner will determine the claimant is
not disabled. Id. at § 404.1520(a)(4)(v) and
(g)(1). If the claimant is not capable of performing other
work, the Commissioner will determine the claimant is
fifth step, considering Carroll's age, education, work
experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined there are jobs that
exist in significant numbers in the national economy that
Carroll can perform, such as those of hand packager, laundry
laborer, and hardware assembler. (Tr. at 34-35). Therefore,
the ALJ concluded Carroll is not disabled. (Id. at
Standard of Review
of the Commissioner's decision is limited to a
determination whether that decision is supported by
substantial evidence and whether the Commissioner applied
correct legal standards. Crawford v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004). A district
court must review the Commissioner's findings of fact
with deference and may not reconsider the facts, reevaluate
the evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the
Commissioner. Ingram v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.
Admin., 496 F.3d 1253, 1260 (11th Cir. 2007); Dyer
v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1210 (11th Cir. 2005).
Rather, a district court must “scrutinize the record as
a whole to determine whether the decision reached is
reasonable and supported by substantial evidence.”
Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th
Cir. 1983) (internal citations omitted). 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 district court
must uphold factual findings supported by substantial
evidence, even if the preponderance of the evidence is
against those findings. Miles v. Chater, 84 F.3d
1397, 1400 (11th Cir. 1996) (citing Martin v.
Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990)).
district court reviews the Commissioner's legal
conclusions de novo. Davis v. Shalala, 985
F.2d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 1993). “The
[Commissioner's] failure to apply the correct law or to
provide the reviewing court with sufficient reasoning for
determining that the proper legal analysis has been conducted