United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
E. OTT CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Lewis Eugene Brothers 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. 10). 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 June 16, 2015,
alleging disability beginning April 27, 2015. (R. 47, 139,
147). After his applications were denied
initially, (R. 68-77), Plaintiff requested a hearing before
an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (R. 80).
After the video hearing, the ALJ issued a decision on
November 15, 2017, finding Plaintiff not disabled. (R.
14-26). Plaintiff then filed a request for review of the
ALJ's decision, and the Appeals Council
(“AC”) denied Plaintiff's request for review.
(Id. at 1-3). The matter is properly before this
was born on November 21, 1965. (R. 35, 139). At the time
Plaintiff filed his applications he was 49 years old, but was
a few days shy of his 52nd birthday on the date of the
ALJ's decision. (Id. at 24-26). He alleges that
he became disabled as of April 25, 2015, as a result of a
broken neck, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
(“COPD”), cholesterol, high blood pressure, chest
pain and carotid artery disease. (R. 186, 191).
Plaintiff's administrative hearing, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since the onset date or April 27, 2015. (R. 19). The ALJ
further found that Plaintiff had the medically determinable
severe impairments of status post cervical fusion, COPD,
carotid artery stenosis and cerebral vascular
disease. (Id.). 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 20). The ALJ then found that
Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform a full range of light work,
and, as such, determined that Plaintiff could return to his
past relevant work as a tool sharpener and machine cleaner
based on the testimony from the vocational expert
(“VE”), descriptions from the Dictionary of
Occupational Titles (“DOT”) and
Plaintiff's descriptions of his past work. (Id.
at 21, 24-25). Based on the above, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff was not disabled. (Id. at 25).
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 work.”