United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
ISAAC L. FLOWERS, Plaintiff,
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
E. Ott Chief United States Magistrate Judge.
Isaac L. Flowers brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), seeking review of the final decision of the
Acting Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying him Supplemental Social
Security (“SSI”) and Disability Insurance
Benefits (“DIB”). (Doc. 1). The case has been
assigned to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge
pursuant to this court's general order of reference. The
parties have consented to the jurisdiction of this court for
disposition of the matter. See 28 U.S.C. §
636(c), Fed.R.Civ.P. 73(a). (Doc. 11). Upon review of the
record and the relevant law, the undersigned finds that the
Commissioner's decision is due to be affirmed.
filed his applications for SSI and DIB on September 3, 2014,
alleging disability beginning August 9, 2013. They were
initially denied by an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”). (R.13-29). Plaintiff filed a request for
review of the ALJ's decision. The Appeals Council
(“AC”) denied Plaintiff's request for review.
(Id. at 1-6). The matter is properly before this
was 46 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision.
(Id. at 23-24). He has a high school education,
receiving a certificate of attendance when he graduated.
(Id. at 19). He has past work experience as a fork
lift operator, truck spotter, and cleaner. (Id. at
222, 245). He was involved in an automobile accident on
August 9, 2013. (Id. at 392-410). He was diagnosed
with acute cervicothoracic strain. (Id. at 21). He
alleges in his initial application for benefits that he could
not work due to back and neck pain, bilateral shoulder
problems, and foot pain. (Id. at 221).
Plaintiff's administrative hearing, the ALJ found that he
had the medically determinable severe impairments of status
post motor vehicle accident; degenerative disc disease; left
eye blindness; and obesity. (Id. at 18). He also
found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or equaled the severity
of a listed impairment. (Id. at 19). He further
found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform sedentary work with postural,
reaching, and environmental limitations. (Id. at
19-20). He determined that Plaintiff could not perform his
past relevant work but could perform the requirements of
representative unskilled occupations such as an assembler,
inspector, or hand loader, which were identified by the
vocational expert (“VE”). (Id. at
23-24). The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
narrowly circumscribed. The function of the court is to
determine whether the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence and whether proper legal
standards were applied. Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 390, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 1422 (1971); Mitchell v.
Comm'r Soc. Sec., 771 F.3d 780, 782 (11th Cir.
2015); Wilson v. Barnhart, 284 F.3d 1219, 1221 (11th
Cir. 2002). 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).
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.
court must uphold factual findings that are supported by
substantial evidence. However, it reviews the ALJ's legal
conclusions de novo because no presumption of
validity attaches to the ALJ's determination of the
proper legal standards to be applied. Davis v.
Shalala, 985 F.2d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 1993). If the
court finds an error in the ALJ's application of the law,
or if the ALJ fails to provide the court with sufficient
reasoning for determining that the proper legal analysis has
been conducted, it must reverse the ALJ's decision.
See Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145-46
(11th Cir. 1991). The court must affirm the ALJ's
decision if substantial evidence supports it, even if other
evidence preponderates against the Commissioner's
findings. See Crawford v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
363 F.3d 1155, 1158 (11th Cir. 2004) (quoting Martin v.
Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir.1990)).
STATUTORY AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
qualify for 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 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A).
A physical or mental impairment is “an impairment that
results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological
abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable
clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” 42
U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(D).
of disability under the Social Security Act requires a five
step analysis. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b) &
416.920(a)(4). Specifically, the Commissioner must determine
whether the claimant: (1) is unable to engage in substantial
gainful activity; (2) has a severe medically determinable
physical or mental impairment; (3) has such an impairment
that meets or equals a Listing and meets the duration
requirements; (4) can perform his past relevant work, in
light of his residual functional capacity; and (5) can make
an adjustment to other work, in light of his residual
functional capacity, age, education, and work experience.
Evans v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 551 Fed.Appx. 521,
524 (11th Cir. 2014). The plaintiff bears the burden of proving
that he was disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act. Moore v. Barnhart, 405 F.3d 1208, 1211
(11th Cir. 2005); see also 20 C.F.R. §
404.704. The applicable “regulations place a very heavy
burden on the claimant to demonstrate both a qualifying
disability and an inability to perform past relevant