United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
E. OTT CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Scottie Lynell Carrell appeals from the decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the
“Commissioner”) denying his applications for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and
supplemental security income (“SSI”) under the
Social Security Act. (Doc. 1). Carrell 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
court finds that the Commissioner's decision is due to be
alleges he became disabled on July 8, 2016. (R.
Carrell claims he could no longer work due to a below the
knee amputation following a car accident. After his claims
were denied, he requested a hearing before an ALJ. Following
the hearing, the ALJ denied his claim. (R. 18-32).
appealed the decision to the Appeals Council
(“AC”). After reviewing the record, the AC
declined to further review the ALJ's decision. (R. 1-4).
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)).
Statutory and Regulatory Framework
establish his 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). 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) & 416.920(b).
the Commissioner must determine whether the claimant is
engaged in “substantial gainful activity.”
Id. “Under the first step, the claimant has
the burden to show that he 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. At the first step, the ALJ
determined Carrell has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since July 8, 2016. (R. 19).
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(c) & 416.920(c). An impairment “must
result from anatomical, physiological, or psychological
abnormalities which can be shown by medically acceptable
clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” See
Id. at § 404.1502. 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 her
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 § & 404.920(c) &
404.1520(a)(4)(ii) and (c).
second step, the ALJ determined Carrell has the following
severe impairments: below the knee left leg amputation with
use of a prosthesis; phantom limb syndrome; and obesity. (R.
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.
§ 404.920(a)(4)(iii) & (d) and § 416.920(d).
The claimant bears the burden of proving his impairment meets
or equals one of the Listings. Reynolds-Buckley, 457
Fed.Appx. 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 Carrell did
not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
meet or medically equal the severity of one of the Listings.
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)
& 416.920(e). A claimant's RFC is the most she can do
despite his impairment. See Id. at §
404.1545(a)(1) & 416.945(a). At the fourth step, the
Commissioner will compare the 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 416.945(a)(4)(iv).
“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. § 404.1560(b)(1) and
416.960(b)(1). The claimant bears the burden of proving that
her impairment prevents him from performing her 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),
proceeding to the fourth step, the ALJ determined Carrell has
the RFC to perform a limited range of light work. (R. at 23).
More specifically, the ALJ found Carrell had the following
limitations with regard to light work, as defined in 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) & 416.967(b):
the claimant can lift and carry twenty pounds frequently and
ten pounds occasionally. He can sit approximately six hours
in an eight-hour workday with all customary breaks, and
stand/walk approximately four hours in an eight-hour workday
with all customary work breaks. The claimant cannot operate
foot controls with his left leg, but can occasionally operate
foot controls with his right leg. The claimant can
occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but can never work on
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. He can occasionally balance and
stoop, but never kneel, crouch, or crawl. The claimant should
avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold and heat, and
vibrations. He should avoid all exposure to dangerous moving
machinery, unprotected heights, and commercial driving.
(Id. at 23). At the fourth step, the ALJ determined
Carrell would not be able to perform his past relevant work
as a welder and boilermaker. (Id. at 30).
claimant is unable to perform her 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) & (g)(1),
404.1560(c)(1), 404.920(a)(4)(v) & (g)(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 disabled.
fifth step, considering Carrell's age, education, work
experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined he can perform jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy,
such as those of hand bander, tagger, and inspector. (R. 31).
Therefore, the ALJ concluded Carrell has not been under a
disability as defined by the Act since June 2, 2016, through
the date of the decision. (R. 32).
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