United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
E. Ott, Chief United States Magistrate Judge.
Marie Wehunt Frazier 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 her 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. 13). Upon review of the
record and the relevant law, the undersigned finds that the
Commissioner's decision is due to be affirmed.
filed her application for DIB on March 12, 2015, alleging
disability beginning August 1, 2014. It was initially denied
by an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (R.
23-31). Plaintiff filed a request for review of
the ALJ's decision. The Appeals Council
(“AC”) denied Plaintiff's request for review.
(Id. at 1-3). The matter is properly before this
was 57 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision.
(Id. at 31, 138). She has past work experience as an
office manager/secretary. (Id. at 177, 194). She
alleges in her initial disability report that she cannot work
due to sleep apnea, pain in her foot, thyroid issues, a bone
spur in her neck, pain in her left arm, mental conditions and
asthma/lung problems. (Id. 185).
Plaintiff's administrative hearing, the ALJ found that
she had the medically determinable severe impairments of
degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint disease, and
fibromyalgia. (Id. at 25-26). 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 27). He further found that
Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work with various
limitations. (Id. at 28-30). He determined that
Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work as an office
manager and the duties of an administrative assistant, but
not an administrative clerk. (Id. at 30-31). The ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled. (R.31).
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(a).
Specifically, the Commissioner must determine in sequence:
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 [(RFC)]; and (5)
can make an adjustment to other work, in light of his
residual functional capacity, age, education, and work
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.
§§ 404.1512(a), 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 work.” Id.