United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
E. Ott Chief United States Magistrate Judge.
Everett Gene Parker appeals from the decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the
“Commissioner”) denying his application for
supplemental security income (“SSI”) under the
Social Security Act. (Doc. 1). Parker timely pursued and
exhausted his administrative remedies, and the
Commissioner's decision is ripe for review. For the
reasons discussed below, the court finds that the
Commissioner's decision is due to be
was fifty-five years old at the time of the hearing. (R.
He graduated from high school and attended special education
classes. (Id.). Parker can read and write and do
simple math. (R. 25). His past work history includes fast
food preparation, work at a poultry plant, and hand packager
at a car part manufacturer. (R. 35-37, 47-48). His last job
was at Jack's in 2006. (R. 35-36). He has not looked for
work since he last worked. (R. 37).
alleges he became disabled on March 22, 2012. (R. 19, 143).
The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denied
his claims initially, (R. 83-87), Parker requested a hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). A
video hearing was held on July 5, 2017. (R. 30-50). Following
the hearing, the ALJ denied his claim. (R. 19-26). Parker
appealed the decision to the Appeals Council
(“AC”). After reviewing the record, the AC
declined to further review the ALJ's decision. (R. 1-6).
That decision became the final decision of the Commissioner
and is now ripe for review. 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. § 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 Parker has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since April 27, 2015, the date of his application.
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. §
416.920 (a)(4)(ii) & (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 § 416.921. 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. §
416.922(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. §
416.920 The claimant bears the burden of providing medical
evidence demonstrating an impairment and its severity.
Id. at § 416.912(a). If the claimant does not
have a severe impairment or combination of impairments, the
Commissioner will determine the claimant is not disabled.
Id. at § 416.920(a)(4)(ii) and (c). At the
second step, the ALJ determined Parker has the following
severe impairments: depression, borderline intellectual
functioning, hiatal hernia, and osteoarthritis status post
history of lower extremity fractures. (R. 21).
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.
§ 416.920(a)(4)(iii) & (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 § 416.920(a)(4)(iii) and (d). At the
third step, the ALJ determined Parker did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meet or
medically equal the severity of one of the Listings. (R.
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. § 416.920(e). A
claimant's RFC is the most he can do despite his
impairment. See Id. at § 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
§ 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.
§ 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. § 416.920(a)(4)(iv) &
proceeding to the fourth step, the ALJ determined Parker has
the RFC to perform a limited range of light work. (R. at 24).
More specifically, the ALJ found Parker had the following
limitations with regard to light work, as defined in 20
C.F.R. § 416.967(b):
he can only lift up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds
frequently; he can carry up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10
pounds frequently he can sit for up to six hours in an
eight-hour workday; he can stand for up to six hours in an
eight-hour workday; he can walk for up to six hours in an
eight-hour workday; he can push and pull as much as he can
lift or carry; he can frequently climb ramps and stairs; he
can occasionally climb ladders, ropes and scaffolds; he can
frequently stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl; he should be
limited to performing simple, routine tasks; and he can have
occasional contact with co-workers and supervisors.
Occasional contact with co-workers and supervisors is defined
as the ability to work in proximity to others, but not on
team positions. The claimant can respond appropriately to the
public and can have occasional contact with the general
(Id.). At the fourth step, the ALJ determined Parker
was capable of performing his past relevant work as a hand
packager. (Id. at 26). With this determination, the
inquiry ended because if the claimant is capable of
performing other work, the Commissioner will determine the
claimant is not disabled. Id.at §
416.920(a)(4)(v) and (g)(1). The ALJ found Parker had not
been under a disability as defined by the SSA since April 27,
2015. (R. 26).
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 ...